Sunday, November 29, 2009

Review: Liar, Justine Larbalestier

Micah is a liar. She lies to her classmates. She lies to her parents. A boy at her school has just been murdered--a boy Micah's been involved with, a boy who is someone else's boyfriend. Micah has decided it's time to stop all the lies. She's going to tell the truth, to you. The whole truth. Honestly.

Going into this book was a very unusual experience. I usually begin a book with an open mind, ready to fall in love with the protagonist and his or her voice and character; ready to sympathise with them and see the world through their eyes. Liar was a very different experience. I went in on my guard, even with stirrings of hostility towards Micah. It says right there on the cover: she's a liar. Forewarned is forearmed. She won't catch me out.

Wrong. Micah pulls the wool over your eyes completely. And then she crows about it. You're left feeling a little hurt and moronic as she says, "You probably saw right through me, you guessed my lies, didn't you?" I was duped. Micah burst my smug little bubble. But it gets worse. Later in the book she openly mocks you. "How could you be so stupid as to believe that? Are you crazy?" I paraphrase, but you get the idea.

It would be pretty easy to dislike such an unreliable, unfriendly narrator. Wrong again. Larbalestier makes that impossible. Liar or not, Micah is intriguing and oddly likable. A lot of people have asked the author what really happened, but Larbalestier has refused to tell. I think what really happened is beside the point. What's fascinating is the journey Micah takes you on, the two narratives with their very different endings. In fact, I don't think even Larbalestier knows which one is the "truth". I don't think it was her intention for there to be a discernible truth.

Liar is a clever read, and certainly one-of-a-kind. Even though what really happened isn't the point, I can't help but speculate. This is what I believe really happened: (contains about a million spoilers, only read if you have read the book, highlight text)

Micah ended up in a mental institution. She did kill Zach, her brother and the others. She is not a werewolf. She used a knife. The filthy white boy is her alter ego, stuck at age twelve, the age at which she killed her brother. My reasoning is this: Micah's compulsive lying makes sense if she is mentally ill. It doesn't if she's a werewolf. The lies she tells aren't just to protect her and her family's wolf secret, which is the reason she gives for lying in the first place. They're to amuse herself, like the lies about kissing Sarah and Tayshawn a second time. If she's a werewolf she has no reason to lie about these things to us. Blaming all her lies on her family's history of lying doesn't make sense as they lie to protect their secret, not for fun. They are the lies of sane people with something to hide. If Micah is a werewolf, she has no reason to make up all these other lies. They just don't make sense. On the other hand, if she's a killer who likes to lie, she has every reason to make things up. Logically, then, it is more likely that Micah is a killer who lies than a werewolf.


  1. I love what you think really happened. Did not occur to me at all.

  2. I have to agree with Steph, I never would have thought that, but it does make some sense. This was a difficult book for me to gather my thoughts all together. Thanks for your great review!

  3. (Warning: comment may contain spoilers!)

    I agree with your interpretation - I WANT to believe Micah is a You-Know-What, but can't. She is, after all, a liar. As you say, it's right there in the title.

    That the 12-year-old might be her alter ego is VERY intriguing and hadn't occured to me - but I love this theory.

    PS I really loved this book. It had a great tone that hooked me the whole way through. And I loooooved that twist.

  4. Great interpretation. I don't know why but I hated the twist in Liar, it kind of threw me a little too over the edge. The rest of the book was really good though.

  5. Your interpretation was pretty much what I thought too.

  6. I'm going to add this book to my birthday wishlist. If you've seen the amount of books on my Xmas wishlist, you'd understand why I'm forcing myself to wait. And I'm not sure when it's released here... searching... aha, apparently I can get it by Tuesday December 1st via

    But I don't like the UK cover =(
    Oh well, thanks for the great review!

  7. YOu see, now I'm going to have to read this, just so I can look at your theory of what really happened. I totally swing back and forth on whether I want to read this. I'm now thinking I'm going to *have* to, because it sounds like one hell of an experience.

  8. I'll have to try to remember to come back and read on after I've actually read the book.
    Micah sounds intriguing and interesting, and I'm wondering if she won't remind me of me in high school, as I used to have a lying problem. About the dumbest of things, at that.
    I'm with Lauren - I feel like I'm going to go order this NOW just because I'm dying to know what you thought happened.

  9. I haven't read this one, and I get why you are irritated, but that sounds brilliant to me. I hadn't intended to read this, but I think I will.

  10. "It would be pretty easy to dislike such an unreliable, unfriendly narrator. Wrong again."

    I love when a writer can take a really unlikeable character and still make the book work. I felt that way about the book Prep.

    Anyway, it's not often that a book can pull the wool over one's eyes, esp. if that someone is well read so I plan to read this one! Great review!

  11. I just finished it. I had to come back and read your secret comments. I was thinking that something like that (what you suggested) but not about the boy. It was one of those books that I can't stop thinking about.

    The twist threw me though. Was not expecting that at all.