Liar, Justine Larbalestier
Originally reviewed 6th January 2011
I first heard of Liar when everyone was talking about the controversy surrounding the original cover. I filed it away in the back of my mind, thinking of picking the book up when it came out. I was reminded of it recently when friends started to talk about it again — through having read it, now — and put it on my last minute Christmas list. Cue me getting it in the mail yesterday, and being almost unable to resist the lure of the first page, which starts with the hook, “I was born with a light covering of fur.”
If you don’t enjoy unreliable narrators, step away right now. Micah is as unreliable as you can get, and the whole book peels back — or layers on — more of her lies.
For the first part of the book, it could be the story of a normal teenager — one who has had bad things happen to her, and who is a loner, yes, but one who is essentially like those around her. It doesn’t stay like that, though: if you’re not a fan of fantastical elements, you probably want to step back now.
The thing with this book is that there are at least two ways of reading it. It’s a delicate balance to walk, but Larbalestier does, in my opinion, walk it well. It wasn’t wholly unpredictable, but I have been spoiled a little by reading other people’s reviews. If you can, and this book sounds interesting to you, then try to go into it knowing as little as possible — just knowing that Micah is a liar (not a spoiler: it’s in the title).
The other thing that pleased me was the fact that the book has non-white characters — chiefly non-white characters, in fact — and LGBT content, plus a generally sex-positive attitude. There’s totally non-explicit sexual references, there’s an understanding of teenagers feeling and dealing with desire, and I didn’t get a ‘sex is bad, hush, we don’t talk about sex’ vibe from it.
(It irks me that there are likely people reading this review thinking, ‘I’d better not give this to my teenage daughter.’ There’s nothing in this that would have damaged my fragile fourteen year old psyche. It’s just people.)
I realise this doesn’t tell you much about how I, personally, felt about this book: I read it within the space of an afternoon, and kept stopping myself after every fifty pages so I could drag it out more and enjoy it for that bit longer. When I put it down, I already had a list of people I want to recommend it to.