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Liar by Justine Larbalestier

August 10, 2009

liarNow 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.”

If you leave a comment, please do not include spoilers! I will delete all comments with spoilers. Thank you.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Liz permalink
    August 11, 2009 1:20 am

    I can’t wait to read this book. It sounds like nothing else I’ve read.

  2. August 11, 2009 2:58 am

    Fantastic! Beyond the controversy some readers were not too shyly speculating if the book would be as good as the hype.

    Looking forward to reading this.

  3. August 11, 2009 4:01 am

    I’ve heard such great things about the book – and now that the cover is better, I’m glad we can actually talk about the book rather than the cover. I’m excited to read this one

  4. Sunnie permalink
    August 11, 2009 4:23 am

    Wow. The publisher changed the cover in response to “public outrage?” I think that’s kind of cool. I like the new cover and hope to read the book when it comes out.

  5. August 11, 2009 5:27 am

    You’re totally right – it is different reading a story where the narrator is known to be unreliable from the beginning…and then take it even further with not having the truth reflected back to us from other characters. I loved it, but Larbalestier was right – none of my co-workers can agree on what happened, which I think is brilliant.

  6. August 11, 2009 7:44 am

    Ooh, I can’t wait to read this!

  7. August 11, 2009 7:35 pm

    Liz – Yes, this book is probably unlike anything you’ve read before.

    susan – Other than my problems with the end of Part 1, which lacked much of the momentum of the rest of the story, I thought it did live up to the hype. Although I would not recommend this book to readers who don’t like psychological thrillers and/or want something with a definite resolution and a clear understanding of events.

    Suzie, Sunnie, and Janssen – I hope Liar lives up to your expectations, too.

    patti – Now that I’ve finished my review, I can’t wait to pass the ARC around to others so that I can talk about the book with them!

  8. August 12, 2009 11:50 am

    I notice they still chose a light skinned girl for the cover art. *Smile* Well, at least it’s closer, right? Your review of this novel certainly piqued my interest. I look forward to reading it.

  9. August 18, 2009 6:17 pm

    Sweet, thanks for talking about what the book is about! I feel like that got lost in the shuffle with all the cover stuff, and I didn’t ever really get a good idea of what it’s about. But now I can’t wait to read it… 🙂

  10. Daniella permalink
    December 28, 2009 6:19 am

    this book was interesting and weird at the same time, i like the title and the cover. the book was filled with suprises and a lot of things

  11. Shelly permalink
    March 23, 2010 8:12 pm

    Read it, love it and love the new cover! (the old one was kinda boring)

  12. Mariana permalink
    March 23, 2010 8:14 pm

    really good gripping book, love how as u think you know whats happening it totally changes!!! 🙂

  13. Summer permalink
    March 30, 2010 7:25 am

    This book definitely confused and still confuses me, but I still love it. I just really want a straight answer as to what the truth is. For me, it’s difficult to say. This book will leave me thinking about it forever.


  1. 2009 in brief « The YA YA YAs
  2. Review – Liar by Justine Larbalestier | Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?
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  4. Justine Larbalestier – Liar « Fyrefly's Book Blog

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