Monday, February 15, 2010

"Liar" by Justine Larbalestier

Summary: Micah is a liar.  She candidly admits it when the book opens.  But from that point on, the reader is never sure what's true and what's not.  The story centers around the mysterious details of the death of Micah's "after-hours" boyfriend Zach, as well as her status as a "freak" at school and her "family illness."  Realistic and outrageous lies and truths mix together into an incredible story of a girl whose only self defense is lying.

Musings: Liar is one of those books that, when you're finished, leaves you sitting there, mouth agape, for a few minutes.  Then you want to rush to the Internet to find out the "truth."  You want to immediately reread the book again for clues you may have missed the first time.  You want to grab someone off the street and force them to read the book too so you can have someone to discuss with.  You want to sit there and gape a bit more. 

I love the idea of an unreliable narrator, especially in YA.  My students have had almost no exposure to unreliable narrators and have a difficult time with this concept in the literature we read.  I think most of the students have grown up with the idea of the "fourth wall"--in movies, TV shows, plays, and books.  They assume that we, as consumers, are simply peering in at a story already in progress.  There's little concept of a relationship between the reader/audience and narrator/author.  Larbalestier does an excellent job of not just creating a connection between the reader and narrator, but a real relationship.  We like Micah; we want to support her; we're hurt when she lies to us; we're angry when she prevaricates so often that nothing seems real.

Liar is so different structurally than most YA, but it still contains many issues and characters that young people would relate to.  Some might be frustrated with the unwillingness of the author to establish "truth," but the book's draw really lies in the reader being forced to make his or her own decisions, which is itself a very real experience.

***This book qualifies for the POC Reading Challenge.


  1. I had to go to Justine's site afterwards and read all the talk about it. Good times!

  2. I agree this was an amazing book! So different from what I expected.

  3. This is a wonderful review. You've convinced me I actually do want to read this. Thanks.