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