Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Now that Liar by Justine Larbalestier has a brand new cover (which is still not perfect, but nevertheless an improvement over the previous one), let’s talk about the story itself. Because it’s trippy, twisty, clever, and one of the most unforgettable books I’ve read so far this year.
Micah is a liar. Her father is a liar. Her entire family are liars. So is it any wonder that she is a liar, too? She’s gotten into trouble before because of her lies and earned a reputation as a liar, but that hasn’t stopped her from continuing to lie. When her classmate (and secret boyfriend?), Zach, is killed and Micah’s lies start to unravel, she swears that she will stop lying. She will tell us the truth.
Or is that a lie, too?
Micah narrates her story in short bursts that flash from past to present and back to the past again. Despite not being told in a linear, straightforward fashion, Larbalestier has crafted (and I really think this is the best word to describe what she’s done) a novel that’s still relatively comprehensible from page one. Except where the lies are concerned. The lies that Micah tells, and has told, the ones that she admits to, are described so realistically and plausibly that it’s impossible to figure out what she otherwise lied about, and so it’s up to the reader to decide for themselves what really happened.*
The story is divided into three parts, and when the latter stages of Part 1 dragged, I did wonder where the story was going and about the rave reviews I’d read. Then came Part 2, and, in a word: wow! The experience of reading a novel with a narrator who is known to be a liar is different, I think, from reading a novel in which the narrator is revealed to be unreliable. When you know from the beginning that the narrator lies, and that the lies are not white lies of the no-really-your-hair/dress/[fill-in-the-blank]-is-nice variety but outrageous ones, you read that much more closely, trying to parse truths from untruths. And yet, at the start of Part 2, Larbalestier shocked the hell out of me with what she did, and she made it totally work. It turned Liar from a somewhat intriguing book to utterly unputdownable.
It’s the cleverness of the plot and structure that makes Liar so attractive to me. It’s dark and, once Part 2 started, I was enthralled by the story. I’m still trying to decide what I believe to be the truth about Micah, but this only makes the book more memorable to me and actually makes me like and appreciate it even more.
Liar will be published on September 29. This review is based on an ARC sent by the publisher.
* On her website, Larbalestier writes, “I deliberately wrote the book to be read in at least two different ways. You may think you know what kind of book it is and what kind of person Micah is, but you’ll find other readers will disagree with you completely. There is no one right way to read this book.”
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