Lizzie's Reviews > Liar

Liar by Justine Larbalestier
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's review
Jun 23, 15

really liked it
bookshelves: 2010, nyc, young-adult, must-reread, fantasy-or-something, sold-to-the-strand
Read in January, 2010

** spoiler alert ** I've been excited to read this one for a long time. I like Larbalestier a lot, and everything about the book sounded good to me. Then my friends started to read it and wow, divisive! So let's roll up our sleeves here.

I want to talk with the spoiler filter on, because my feelings for the book feel like they're restricted by section. I'd even rate it that way if I could. Part one: 5 stars, Part two: 4 stars, Part three: 2 stars. Overall, I'll round up because I enjoyed the first half so much.

The first section, the spoiler-free section about a murder and the truth and weirdness -- I loved this. Micah is a dark, dark protagonist here. Something isn't right with her. She's an unhappy person and very disturbing, and yet, so good. And her story here has some of my favorite ingredients: teenage mystery, realistic and yet lush New York City life.

In this section, Micah's explanation of her truthlessness is perfect because her lies are all about things that are hard for all young adults to sort out: her relationship, her femininity, her genes and body. Serious thoughts. And the narrative style works hard to draw out the constant little lies of life, because everyone is lying, a lot. It works. And I want to know what is going on, really badly. Hooked.

So then the second section was so weird. Because it did a couple things to scramble my enthusiasm. For one thing, I liked the realism of the book. I didn't want to be told to let that go. Another thing, the second section is all backstory, when I wanted to keep hearing about what was going on with Zach's murder and the troubling investigation and sad aftermath. I liked the NYC teen mystery book. I wanted to read that book from day one.

Cuz, um, another thing? I really, really, really. Do not care about werewolves at all. Not even a little bit. I am not interested in them as myth or metaphor. Shrug. I like fantasy plenty, but it's not my cup.

Now. Actually? I think it's well done. I think this is a good werewolf book. Even if, as Larbalestier claims, there are multiple readings of the book and you do not take the werewolf thing as real. And, while you think it over -- because the whole time you're wondering, is this for real, book about liar? -- the possibility that it is a lie casts your mind straight back to part one, the part that sounds mostly really true, and starts to make you feel differently about it, which is how a book about a liar mounts its excitement. So it works! There's layers built up. By the time we get our first clue that something could be going on with delusion and prisons, we have already had a harrowing scene with a girl in a cage in her bedroom. Well. Done.

The last section, however, slowed me down considerably. The reversals produced more consternation than anything else. And it goes on for quite a while -- I think the book could have been much shorter just by removing maybe 5 descriptions of the wolf/person change. A lot is repeated, and that's not fun to read. Part three does do one hugely important thing, though, which is that the way she feels when her parents leave her is actually the first time I felt very touched by Micah, and felt that the events of the book were changing who she was in an important way. That bond took a bit too long to form, though. I think I should have felt that it was Zach's death that changed her life for good, because that's really what the book is about.

I don't feel particularly eager to unravel "what is real", since until the muddy end the reading experience is really pretty straightforward. Some internet theories, such as Justine Larbalestier's comment and a reader's comment about Jordan, turned my wheels a little bit. I guess the dark and twisty reality-bomb version of the story works too, but I think that interpretation is innately unsatisfying. By definition, that book is less layered and careful. You've taken too much away to get to it for it to be that good.

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