Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Larbalestier, J.  (2009).  Liar.  New York:  Bloomsbury.

371 pages.

30-Second Plot Summary:  Micah is known throughout the school as a liar.  She has her reasons.  Her father is a liar too and they both have to protect the fact that Micah has been stricken with the family illness.  When her secret-boyfriend, a popular boy named Zach, who has another (not so secret) girlfriend, is murdered, suspicion turns to Micah.  Her lies slowly begin to unravel as Micah tries to figure out who she truly is.

I've written about this book previously.  Before Liar was released, there was a lot of drama about the cover, since Bloomsbury originally planned to have a white girl on the cover even though Micah's mom is white (and French!oui) and her father is half-black and Micah herself is described as having some black physical features.  To find out more about the drama, click here to see Justine's blog.

Because of all the said drama, I was excited to read this book.  Also driving my interest was the fact that Micah, who narrates her entire story, is a liar (thus the title).  While readers may take Micah at her word from the beginning of her story, they will soon realize that they can't trust her narration to be completely truthful.  A fun challenge to keep readers on their toes!

I had a little trouble with this book in terms of its genre.  For the first half of the book, it feels very much like realistic fiction with the potential for a paranormal hint or two.  Then the second part was decidedly paranormal.  Although there aren't hints in the way that Larbalestier builds the world of Liar, there are hints of the paranormal dimension in Micah's characterization.  So, it's not like I wanted to throw the book against the wall because it didn't give me a chance to predict what would happen in the text, but the book did undermine my expectations and make me grumble a little.  Almost as though I'd been lied to (Hmmm, interesting.  Questions of genre paralleling questions over the narrator's believability?  Who'd a thunk?).

I also had trouble with a jump in location that occurs fewer than 30 pages before the end of the novel.  To be as vague as possible--Micah is stuck in a location where she doesn't want to be.  With nobody who I can see as being willing to help her.  No cell phone.  No car.  No money.  Yet, when Micah decides she wants to be elsewhere at the top of page 348.  There's a jump to a new chapter and then BAM! Micah is where she wanted to be.  With no explanation of how she got there.  And I was left thinking, "Dream?  A new lie?  Did Scotty beam her over?  What just happened?"  But there was no evidence that it was just another lie.  Not really.  If anybody else out there has finished Liar, I would love to talk this over in the comments.  Anyone?  Anyone?

I have to say over all, while Liar was engaging, it wasn't as much of a must-read-this-now-I-don't-care-if-I-fail-out-of-school-I'll-be-okay-since-I'll-know-how-this-book-ends-yayz! book as I was expecting.  Part of the problem could be the fact that I heard the book's premise so long before I had a chance to read it.  I built up my own idea of how a book with such an unreliable narrator would play out.  What are your thoughts, our few but beloved readers?  Have any of you read Liar?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.


While this may be best as an individual recommendation, it does open the door to discuss genetics, race, censorship, the way language shifts, and methods of birth control.  Lots of good topics!  Much of the world building of Liar is grounded in science (specifically biology) so a teacher could pull out specific passages to discuss those issues.

Of course, the go-to discussion would be about the fact that Micah is unreliable in her narration.  If used in class assignments, as students are reading, they could keep track of which of Micah's assertions they believe or are suspicious of and why.

Other discussion topics include issue of identity (from race, to sense of belonging, to being honest about who you are--with others and yourself).  There is also a strong tensions over control of one's emotions and body and between urban and country life that can become a topic of discussion.


"I was born with a light covering of fur.
After three days it had all fallen off, but the damage was done.  My mother stopped trusting my father because it was a family condition he had not told her about.  One of many omissions and lies.
My father is a liar and so am I" (p. 3).

"You probably think I'm weird with the mask and the sort-of-but-not-really boyfriend who's dead and all the lies.
Past lies, I mean.  I haven't lied to you and I won't" (pp. 19-20).

"...Why would I want anyone to think I was some kind of freak?"
Because I wanted them to pay attention to me.
Something like that.
Mostly it's the joy of convincing people that something that ain't so, is.  It's hard to explain.  But like I said at the beginning, I've quit the lying game now" (p. 32).

Tasty Rating:  !!!


  1. I have read several reviews of this book and somehow I had NO clue that there was anything paranormal about it. . .
    It sounds almost hard to follow. . .

  2. Brizmus, it honestly isn't hard to follow. The writing's clear so t works.

    And the paranormal element begins pretty far into the book. So, some may have wanted to leave it a surprise. Personally, as a reader, I like hints of these things early on. Of course, it could all just be a lie....

    Sarah, READ IT! We'll talk.



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