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Justine Larbalestier – Liar

September 25, 2009

113. Liar by Justine Larbalestier (2009)

Liar will be published in the U.S. on 29 September 2009 by Bloomsbury; you can pre-order your copy from Amazon.

Length: 376 pages

Genre: Young Adult

Started: 15 September 2009
Finished: 15 September 2009

Where did it come from? Sent by the publishers for review.
Why do I have it? Bloomsbury sent a pamphlet with the first few chapters (they’re short – two or three pages each) along with another book I was reviewing for them (Oathbreaker, I think), and it was intriguing and well-written enough to make me want to read the rest it.

How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 03 September 2009.
Verdict? Keeper; half of the fun of unreliable narrator books is reading the whole thing over once you know (or think you know) the ending.

Here’s a question for
you: What if she lied about
being a liar?

Summary: Micah Wilkins lies. All the time. About everything. She spent the first two days of freshman year pretending she was a boy, and most of the school believes that her father is an arms dealer. Her classmates alternate between distrust, scorn, and ignoring her, which is fine – that’s how she likes it. However, when her sort-of-but-not-really boyfriend Zach is found dead, the whispers start: Liar. Freak. Slut. Killer. But when she’s been lying for so long, how can she possibly hope to convince anyone of the truth… if she’s even capable of telling it.

Review: This might possibly be the hardest book review I’ve ever written. I can’t give a proper summary of more than the first few chapters without giving something crucial away. I can’t talk in any specifics about what I liked and didn’t like about the book, because so much of the fun of it is unraveling the various layers for yourself. I can, however, say that I read the entire 376 pages in one afternoon, almost in one straight shot. I was enjoying the book from the beginning, and when we got to the point where the first lie – the first big lie, anyways – was revealed, even though part of me was thinking “…really??”, it was a good enough hook to suck me straight into the pages, compulsively turning pages, determined to find out where it all was going. And the thing was, I say it was from the time the first big lie was revealed, but even that’s blurring the truth a little… since we’re never 100% sure if that was when the first big lie was revealed, or when it was created.

That’s the fascinating thing this book pulls off, the constant wrong-footing of the reader, the constant second- and third-guessing of everything single thing that’s said. I’ve read a few unreliable narrator books before, but never one in which the narrator is so honest about her dishonesty. (Heh.) Liar does a lot of other things well, too: Micah’s voice, whether or not she’s lying to us, was perfectly pitched to the rhythms and thought patterns of a 17-year-old girl. It also deals with issues of death and grief and loss in a way that felt painfully authentic. There were a few things it didn’t do so well, too; there were some elements that were brought up but never fully fleshed out, a few revelations weren’t given quite long enough to sink in before they were yanked away again, and the ending felt a little bit rushed. Plus I never quite shook the feeling of “…really??”; although, in the final analysis, that might have worked to the book’s advantage. But all in all, it was a very compelling and thoroughly unique read. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Gah. I can’t even do a recommendation without having to dance around spoilers. Okay, here’s the thing: if you even think you might like this book, stop reading this, don’t read another thing, do NOT look at the tag cloud, don’t pay too much attention to the Amazon page, just go get it and read it. I feel like this book would lose a lot of its impact by knowing what’s coming ahead of time, so if YA novels and/or unreliable narrators are your thing, or if you just think it looks intriguing, I’d recommend sooner rather than later. And then once you have, come back, and we’ll chat. :)

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Justine Larbalestier’s website

Other Reviews: Addicted to Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Bib-Laura-graphy, The BookBind, A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, The Compulsive Reader, Librarilly Blond, The LibrariYAn, Reading Rants!, Reading Rocks, The YA YA YAs
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: I was born with a light covering of fur.

Cover Thoughts: There was a metric ton of (much-deserved) kerfluffle surrounding this cover, and the fact that the original US design had a white girl on it, when Micah is black. But you know what? Actually reading the book has effectively wiped all of that out of my mind. Does this cover give any indication of what the book’s about? Well, marginally better than it did when the girl was white, I guess, but on the whole, no, not at all. And that, for once, is totally okay by me.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. September 25, 2009 7:55 am

    I tried to dance lightly on this review. This is on my shelf, except that it’s an ARC I picked up at ALA and so it has the old stupid cover. I was only mildly interested in it when I picked it up, but each time I hear something about it, I want to read it more.

    • September 25, 2009 9:48 am

      Amanda – I’d definitely say sooner rather than later! It’s a fast read, and while it would still be good if you have some of the details spoiled, I don’t think it would be *as* good.

  2. September 25, 2009 7:55 am

    As per your request, I have stopped reading everything to do with this book! I love unreliable narrators and YA; this is definitely on my list although it will be a while before I get to it.

    • September 25, 2009 9:49 am

      Meghan – Here’s wishing for you to remain spoiler-free until you are able to get your hands on a copy, and for you to enjoy it as much as I suspect you probably will!

  3. September 25, 2009 8:41 am

    I have to give you props for reviewing this. I too read it after I picked it up at the BEA earlier this year and while I LOVED the book, I couldn’t even begin to write a review without giving away important details that would ruin it. Hopefully others will head your advice and just pick it up :)

    • September 25, 2009 9:51 am

      Amanda – This was a hard review to write, for sure! I feel bad, like that summary’s totally a fraud… because it is, kinda, but I can’t summarize what the book’s *actually* about without giving away way too much.

  4. September 25, 2009 8:55 am

    So this is the kind of book that frustrates me and defies my normal reading habits. Ordinarily I read the end about fifty pages in, but with something like this, where different things are revealed throughout the book, it sounds like that wouldn’t do me any good. Hmmmmmmm. I love unreliable narrators but I also like knowing what’s about to happen.

    • September 25, 2009 9:53 am

      Jenny – I think you could actually still get away with that on this book… since even by the end, we’re still never 100% sure about “what’s about to happen”, you wouldn’t *really* be spoiling yourself, since you wouldn’t know if the end you read was true or not. :)

  5. September 25, 2009 10:44 pm

    I must read this! I think I will see if the library buys a copy first, though… I have too many books that I want to read coming out soon!

    • September 27, 2009 5:12 pm

      Kailana – This fall seems to be full of fantastic books, doesn’t it? I’m so glad my local library is so good… my budget would never support it, otherwise.

  6. September 26, 2009 10:33 am

    Haha! I am just about to read this and am also dreading writing the review when I know I won’t be able to say much about it…

    • September 27, 2009 5:11 pm

      Lenore – I actually managed to write this review fairly quickly after finishing the book – while what I wanted to say and what I knew I *couldn’t* say was still fresh in my head. :)

  7. September 26, 2009 4:40 pm

    You TOTALLY made me want to read this. I’ve seen so many great reviews that I feel I must put it on my library’s hold list. :)

    • September 27, 2009 5:10 pm

      Heather – Well, hopefully you get a copy quickly, and I hope you like it too!

  8. September 27, 2009 9:28 am

    When I first heard about this I was desperate to read it, then all the cover shenanigans made me lose interest. Not because I was overly horrified about the whole white girl/black girl pic, more that every place I turned their was mention of it. Media over-saturation maybe? Anyways, after reading your review I do want to give it a read – more desperately than I did at first (lol)

    • September 27, 2009 5:09 pm

      Joanne – I know what you mean about the over-saturation. However, I really do think you’d like it… no zombies, (I feel like I can say that without it being too much of a spoiler. :) but otherwise, it seems like it’d be up your alley.

  9. September 27, 2009 11:53 am

    Okay, I think I may run out and buy this on Tuesday and refuse to read any more reviews until then, in case they aren’t as good as not spoiling as you were.

    • September 27, 2009 5:06 pm

      Jen – Thanks, I tried very hard not to be spoilery… but seriously, do not go anywhere near the LT page for this book until you’re at least a hundred pages in.

  10. September 27, 2009 5:01 pm

    I already wanted to read this, but seriously, if there’s something I can’t resist is a review that says “I can’t tell you much without spoiling it” :P It definitely sounds like I should read it soon.

    • September 27, 2009 5:04 pm

      Nymeth – Haha, if that were true for everyone, it would certainly make writing my reviews a lot quicker! :)

  11. September 27, 2009 5:04 pm

    I read it this week, and I fully agree with your review! I’ve been struggling to write mine, too, since I don’t want to reveal what happens… It was a surprising twist, but a great one. I thought the ending was a little rushed though, too!

    • September 27, 2009 5:07 pm

      Kay – Yeah, the ending did come kind of quickly, although in retrospect there were hints of it coming all along. I was really tempted to immediately start the book over as soon as I’d finished it!

  12. September 27, 2009 5:26 pm

    Man, do I ever want to read this! I’ve stuck strictly to reviews from folks who I know won’t include spoilers, and they’ve got me really excited about the book. It’s right near the top of my list of stuff I’ve got to read as soon as I meet my TBR goals. I figure I’ll go with THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO first, then LIAR. :)

    • September 27, 2009 5:33 pm

      You, also, I think, will definitely enjoy it. :)

      I, on the other hand, have heard so very much about The Knife of Never Letting Go from people that I trust that I don’t know why it’s not already on my wishlist. Off to go remedy that.

  13. September 27, 2009 8:35 pm

    I got this book at BEA and with all the controversy over the cover, I kind of set it aside. It sounds like it’s worth reading.

    • September 28, 2009 1:07 pm

      bermudaonion – I obviously really enjoyed it, but I will be very, very curious to hear what you think about it.


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