Review of Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Seventeen-year-old androgynous, mixed-race Micah Wilkins is a pathological liar and perhaps worse. As the narrator of this story, she struggles to tell the unidentified listener the truth about the death of her boyfriend, Zach Rubin.

Micah attends a small, progressive high school but doesn’t fit in; the other students consider her a “freak.” As a new student, she tried passing for a boy. More lies followed. Other students started to avoid her, but not Zach, a popular boy with an “official” girlfriend Sarah. After Zach’s death, it came out that he also spent time with Micah. Thus she comes under suspicion for Zach’s death, since no one likes her anyway, and as a known liar, her alibi is assailable. As Micah admits:

I am often in trouble. Mostly for things I have not done. I can’t expect to be believed. I am the girl who cried wolf.”

[This is a remark that will come back to haunt you later in the book.]

Micah divides her story into sections, most of which are titled Before or After, meaning before and after Zach’s death. One of the “After” chapters reads:

This is how it feels now.

Blankness.
Numbness.
Nothing.

Without Zach I’m nothing. I’m not even half of anything, not even the in between I was before. Not girl, not boy, not black, not white.

It’s all gone.

I’m gone.”

But who is it that is gone? Micah changes her story many times. Which Micah, underneath all the lies, is the real one? The reader can try to put together the clues, but to a large extent the conclusion the reader draws will be based upon what insight and background the reader brings to the book.

Evaluation: This book is not so easy to review; there is too much that might be considered “spoilery.” But it is perfect for book clubs; there is endless material in here for discussion. It’s a book that could be considered sad, or scary, or even exhiliarating, depending on your interpretation. It seems to me to be a masterful look at pathology, and definitely thought-provoking. Micah is a character not easily forgotten.

Those observations aside, did I like it? That’s a tough one. I found the author to be very clever, and the book presents an intriguing puzzle for readers to solve. But did I come away enriched or enlightened? Not really. On the other hand, I wouldn’t hesitate to say to a book club, pick this book!

Rating: 3.5/5

Nota Bene: For those who have already read this book, there is a very good discussion thread on possible interpretations of the book here.

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14 Responses

  1. I was kind of turned off from this book because of the controversy over the cover but your review has piqued my interest.

  2. I enjoy having my mind toyed with, so there is a chance I might like this. I’ll have to give it some more thought.

  3. I think that I could enjoy this book if I was in the right mood (I guess that’s true of a lot of books though). Nice review!

    I just saw your “Team Boy Colt” button in the sidebar, btw, and I think it’s great! I can’t wait until the third book comes out!

  4. It’s great to read a review of this notorious book… hmmm, I’m not sure that it’s my cup of tea – but like Bermuda Onion, my interest is piqued!

    And thank you for signing up as a friend of PaperTigers!

  5. I guess I’m interested in this book from a book club discussion angle, but there are just so many other books that I’d rather pick up first.

  6. You actually have me interested in this book. It’s probably not my cup of tea but I like the idea of it.

  7. Now I have to find a book club to read this one with!!!! I loved your review of this one and have moved this book down in my list of books.

  8. I was not a fan of this book!

  9. I discussed this as a part of a book cub and the discussion was lively and interesting but ultimately frustrating. We had more questions than anything else.

  10. Hmmm…not sure what to think. Is this a book where YOU have to figure out the ending on your own?

  11. I don’t know about this one. Looks interesting, but maybe only if I see it on the library shelf.

  12. Fantastic review. I can see where it would be hard to do so! I just reviewed Thirteen reasons Why and it sort of reminds me of that but this one sounds as thought t may be a deeper read.

  13. I knew nothing about this book except the cover controversy. It sounds more interesting than I thought

  14. This one is on my wish list. I’m undecided as to whether I like or really dislike unreliable narrators, but this sounds really intriguing.

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