Book Review: Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Liar CoverBook: Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Published September 2009  by Bloomsbury|371 pages

Where I Got It: borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: 

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.

What I Thought:

I thought Liar started off really strong and I initially liked it, but I slowly became indifferent towards the book by the end of it.

What really lost me was the revelation of the family illness- that her family were werewolves.  That was when the book started to lose me- and while it was first at first, by the end of it, it just felt like a lame excuse for why she lied all the time.  I get that things run in the family, which I could have handled.  And if the werewolf thing is a stand-in for something else (mental illness and period-related issues seem like the best possibilities, but the second one doesn’t explain the fact that her one uncle seems to be affected by the family illness), I thought it didn’t really do a good job of it, just because it turned into something I wasn’t expecting, and it felt out of place.

I’m fine with unreliable narrators, and one who’s a compulsive liar makes for a really interesting unreliable narrator because you’re never sure what’s true and what’s a lie.  What became really clear to me was that Justine really needed help.  She really did- her brother being a good example of this.  At different points in the book, she has a brother who hates her, he never existed, or he died and she was involved somehow.  Not only that, but it’s never resolved, and it’s randomly mentioned, but you don’t really hear about it after a certain point.  Which makes me wonder why it was even included…I guess to show how much of a liar she is, but you definitely get that throughout the book.  Maybe to show family issues?  Anyway, one of the very few things that you could actually trust is that she’s in desperate need of help, and it’s a shame that she doesn’t get it.

She gets sent up to the Greats (how they’re related to her, I could never figure out) in the country, and she runs away because her life will end if she’s not in the city.  I really wish we could trust her stories about her family, because I am oddly curious about what they’re really like, and if they noticed that Micah needed help.  And if they did, why they didn’t try to get her more help. Maybe they did, but Micah never talked about it?

While you couldn’t trust a lot of what Micah said, something I could trust (and actually liked) was how she felt out of place- race being a big one, since she’s bi-racial.  Part of me wishes that had come up more, because it really doesn’t in the book.  Which is fine, because there are so many other things going on, and just because a character is bi-racial doesn’t mean the story has to focus on that.  But there is a part of me that wishes we saw the impact it had on Micah’s life.

My Rating:

2 stars.  Micah definitely has a strong voice, and I liked that she’s such an unreliable narrator, but the big reveal about the family illness made me feel indifferent about the book.

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