Review: Liar

by Justine Larbalestier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Liar / 978-1-599-90305-7

It is a rare and marvelous thing to find a book like "Liar", dominated by an intriguingly unreliable narrator, obsessively lying her way through the story of her life. "Liar" starts out gently, lulling us into complacency. Narrator Micah confesses to us the lies she has told other people, but assures us that she does not lie to the reader. And, after a time, it's tempting to believe her. Her lies to other people are daring and outrageous (that she is really a boy, or that she is a hermaphrodite), but the story she tells us seems genuine and truthful. Her secret 'after-hours' boyfriend has died and everyone at the school is struggling to cope. Micah is struggling most of all because she has trouble dealing with the problem of missing someone with whom she didn't have a structured boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.

Somewhere around the half-way mark, Micah starts confessing to a few minor lies she has told the reader during her narration. She confesses ashamedly, guiltily, and tells the truth, the real truth, and why she told those little lies along the way. As the reader, our hearts melt and we forgive her lies, only to be taken in again, and again. What is truth and what is a lie? We realize that we know nothing of Micah's story except what she tells us - we cannot confirm that the things she labels as "truth" and as "lies" are really what she says they are. And when Micah tells her most incredible secret of all, a secret that cannot possibly be true (or can it?) we are overwhelmed by the earnest sincerity of her tone, and the lavish, realistic details that she presses onto us.

In the end, we are forced to choose between believing Micah's impossible story - a belief we WANT to have, because her story allows her to be innocent, free, truthful, and have a happy ending - or we must distrust her and assume the more logical and yet the worst possible outcome to Micah and her story. Add onto that exquisite dilemma her final confession - her lies of omission - and we realize that all the details she has omitted as "not being integral to the story" quite likely change everything about what we have read. In the end, we are tormented with the knowledge that we can never know what has happened to Micah or her friends, but the torment is a sweet one.

Hopefully having not spoiled too much, here are some more mundane details that readers will want to consider. Micah is seventeen and speaks with extreme frankness on such topics as death, bodily decay, sex, menstruation, and murder. This book contains strong language infrequently, and also a depiction of a three-person kiss involving two young women and a young man. Not everyone is going to be ready to access this material, and not everyone will be mature enough to hold onto the slippery threads of Micah's lies - a lot of this book is going to depend on the mental age of the reader, so take that into account.

I strongly recommend this book for mature readers who are seeking an intriguing thriller storyline, told by a completely untrustworthy and yet completely likable narrator. Just do be aware that there is some harsh language and material along the way, in case you prefer to avoid that sort of thing.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.

~ Ana Mardoll

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