Saturday, December 05, 2009

Book Review: Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Book: Liar
Author: Justine Larbalestier
Published: 2009
Source: Local Library

Everyone lies a little, right? Well, Micah lies a lot. She lies to her family, to her friends, to her boyfriend. She even lies to herself. But that's all done now. Over. Finito. She's not going to lie anymore. And she's going to start by telling the story of how her boyfriend died, and what she knows about it. This is the truth. All of it. Every word.


Oh, lord. How to write a spoiler-free review? Here goes: This book made my brain twist into a pretzel.

It's a good thing Justine Larbalestier is such a good writer, or else this would always be that one book with the cover, yeah, that cover, you know the one. But I forgot about all that three pages in.

Basically, it does what it says on the cover. You know Micah is a liar, it says so right there. But what is she lying about? It's not easy to tell. The things that seem wildest are true, and the things that seem most basic are false. Every time she doles out some new piece of information, either about what happened or about herself, you have to stop and consider it. If it's the truth, why would she tell us? If it's a lie, what's the truth she's trying to hide?

Surprisingly enough, the biggest, craziest thing that Micah tells us, I actually believe. I'm not sure why, even, because she admits to telling large and complex lies about herself and what she is. Perhaps it's that nothing else really makes sense if that's a lie. Everything really is built on this revelation, which occurs about two-thirds of the way through the novel. There has to be some truth, or else it wouldn't be so hard to figure out what's a lie.

As we get into the last third of the novel, Micah's lies--and her world--are crumbling around her. More and more, she asserts to the readers that she would never lie to us, even while admitting that she has, repeatedly, sometimes as recently as the previous page. There's only one small group of people that I don't remember her ever lying to--the people she can truly be herself with. Of course, she is our eyes on the scene, and just because she never admits to and we never catch her in a lie to these people, doesn't mean that she never has. But again, sometimes you just have to take something as the truth.

About midway through the book, she talks about the counselors and shrinks who try to tell her why she lies, and she says, "Maybe the world is better the way I tell it." This is the world that Micah wants to be true, but the trouble is that reality can't be changed with words. One major revelation is left almost too late, and there are threads trailing after the novel is done. I'm not sure whether this is a flaw or not, since it helps to undercut our belief in Micah's final assertions. Undercut, but not completely negate. At the end, you're not sure whether everything you've finally decided is real is just what Micah wants to believe.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Impressive review. Spoiler-free, and it makes me want to get the book and re-read it. :-D