Sunday, April 22, 2012

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Title: Liar
Author: Justine Larbalestier
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Release Date: September 29, 2009
Pages: 376 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: From the school library.
Purchase: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository

Micah will freely admit that she’s a compulsive liar, but that may be the one honest thing she’ll ever tell you. Over the years she’s duped her classmates, her teachers, and even her parents, and she’s always managed to stay one step ahead of her lies. That is, until her boyfriend dies under brutal circumstances and her dishonesty begins to catch up with her. But is it possible to tell the truth when lying comes as naturally as breathing? 

Taking readers deep into the psyche of a young woman who will say just about anything to convince them—and herself—that she’s finally come clean, Liar is a bone-chilling thriller that will have readers see-sawing between truths and lies right up to the end. Honestly.


A good recipe for getting some reading done:

  • A sudden desire for unreliable narrators;
  • a trip to the school library made on a whim just before a camping trip;
  • a rainy weekend;
  • and various health problems that keep me from doing much for the moment.

The last one sucks and all, but try to tell me you're not going to get some reading done in those circumstances. That recipe and Liar's sheer readability made the novel a quick read, but it certainly wasn't an easy read.

Micah minces no words in her attempts to tell the reader she is a pathological liar, leaving us treading on thin ice every time she speaks. Because of this, I practically inhaled the first half of Liar. How many lies was she telling? How would they come unraveled? The compelling angle of her disorder and her dynamic personality gave it the kind of drive I wish more books had.

But then...

I'll try to keep the exact details vague, but I can't review the book properly without spoiling a major twist because then I wouldn't be able to discuss my issue with said twist the way I need to. Just short of halfway through, Micah lets her biggest secret out of the bag and Liar morphs into a paranormal novel when I came in thinking it was a YA contemporary novel.

Personally, I regarded everything she said about the paranormal details as a lie. Judging by Micah's inner monologue at the end of the book, that kind of reaction was expected based on the kind of person she was and all the lies she told no matter how many times she claimed to be telling the truth. Combining a pathological liar with paranormal elements left me questioning their veracity for the rest of the book and gave Liar a little too much mindfuck for me to enjoy the second half the way I enjoyed the first half.

The energy I had for the first half tapered off and I had to push myself just to finish the book. If a friend weren't begging me to loan it to him when I finished, I might not have been able to push myself like I did. I never wanted to be someone that liked a novel less just because it pulled a genre-switch on me, but it looks like I am. Liar was much stronger when I considered it a YA contemporary about a pathological liar and grief than when I redrew it in my mind as a YA paranormal about a pathological liar and grief.

I think I'll stick with a few of the books I already own to get my unreliable narrator fix, but it's a strong enough novel that I can recommend it to others. Still, be cautious of that twist. If it's the sort of detail that can ruin a novel for you but you still want an unreliable narrator, go for Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

3 stars!

What am I reading next?: Blackwood by Gwenda Bond