Thursday, October 15, 2009

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Plot Summary: Micah will freely admit that she’s a compulsive liar, but that may be the one honest thing she’ll ever tell you. Over the years she’s duped her classmates, her teachers, and even her parents, and she’s always managed to stay one step ahead of her lies. That is, until her boyfriend dies under brutal circumstances and her dishonesty begins to catch up with her. But is it possible to tell the truth when lying comes as naturally as breathing?

I'm not usually a fan of unreliable narrators, but the first half of Liar was so intriguing that I was hooked. I mean, Micah admits up front that she’s a compulsive liar, so I was expecting a great battle between her desire to tell the truth and her compulsion to lie. I wasn’t disappointed.

That said, the second half of the book completely lost my interest. For me, the author took things a bit too far...

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below. Big ones.

There is a huge twist in the middle of the book, which is that Micah is a werewolf. I was focusing so much on the compulsive liar aspect of the story that I missed the clues leading up to the werewolf reveal, so it was a bit jarring for me. Though, once I sat and thought about it, I remembered the clues leading up to it and was able to read on.

But soon after that, I lost interest. Micah gets more and more unreliable, contradicting herself so much that the clues she leaves really lead nowhere. What the reader chooses to believe will be completely based on what he wants to be true because Micah has left things completely open, with not even a nod in the general direction toward the truth. Which means that anything could be true.

That really put me off. It makes me think that the author either didn't know what she wanted to be true, so she went in circles. Or, she was trying too hard too write something revolutionary. For me, it didn't work. But I still would have liked the story if not for one particular scene.

At one point, Micah tells us she lied about having a brother because she wanted to see if we, the readers, would believe her. That bothered me for a couple reasons. First, it made me wonder if this 'wanting to see if we'd believe her' thing was on a larger scale. Like, a book-wide scale. It also bothered me because it's easy to lie to a stranger, and readers are strangers. If a complete stranger told you something that sounded reasonable, you'd believe him because you have no basis for comparison. Same is true for Micah.

If she was trying to prove her prowess about lying, then she should be testing those skills on someone who knows her well. Lying to the reader, and then pseudo laughing at us for believing her, is what killed the book for me. From that point on, I didn't believe a word she said, which kind of makes it impossible to care about how her story is going to turn out.

I really have no idea what her motivation was for the circular lying at the end. If it was to show that she is really a compulsive liar and can't do anything about it, well, she succeeded. If there was another point, then I didn't understand it.


Unknown said...

You beat me to the punch; I'm planning on reviewing this one next week :)

I totally understand where you're coming from though. I still haven't decided if I like the book or not. I certainly like it *less* because of the supernatural aspect--I wanted a book that was about lying, not werewolves. I liked the unreliable narrator part of the story, but the "truth" was a bit of a let-down to me.

Although I do have to applaud at how well the secret's been kept. This is actually the first review I've read that uses "werewolf," and it's amazed me that the secret has been held for so long.

Personally, I liked the "is the brother real" aspect of the story--that's actually one of the things that kept me going after the big reveal. I did feel conned--but in that admiring, "Wow, that was a good trick" sort of way. The brother lie was probably my favorite part of the book. (Although I did also like the imagery of the "desk" that clangs and the descriptions of the first change.)

In the end, for me, I liked it as a liar book, but not so much as a werewolf book. The werewolf aspect was almost too would have been much more emotional for me if it had been more focused on murder between humans than animals.

Tabitha said...

Yeah, I'm also impressed at how well the secret has been kept. But I almost always have spoilers in my reviews...I just can't properly discuss a book when I leave major elements out. :)

If the brother thing had been done in a different way, I would have liked it. It was how the reader was laughed at for believing Micah that put me off. Her attitude was along the lines of I-am-such-a-lying-goddess, which just doesn't fit the situation.

If you ask someone for directions, and they tell you in a normal manner, you're going to believe him, right? But if that person lied, and then laughed at you when you got lost, how would you feel? I'd guess you'd be mad.

That's how I felt with the way the brother thing was handled. It was this quote in particular that killed the book for me:
"I wanted to see if I could do it... I wanted to see if you would buy it. And you did. You buy everything, don't you? You make it too easy."

Lying to strangers, and making them believe you, is easy. They don't know your quirks or nuances, so you can get away with just about anything. Because of that, Micah's above quote has no merit, and from that point on I didn't believe a word she said. Which removed all tension from the rest of the book for me. I wish Micah hadn't insulted the reader, because then I would have enjoyed the book more.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

Ive heard this is geat!

PJ Hoover said...

Werewolf? Really? I had no idea. Of course I haven't read it, but wow.

Oh, now I see Beth's "secret" comment.

Anne Spollen said...

I heard such mixed reviews about this one. I had to put it down at the werewolf part -- I give you credit for forging onward. I kept thinking, "Was an editor involved...?"

But there were some really great parts in the beginning and some really great writing.

I just stopped understanding what was going on.

Tabitha said...

Shelli - this book definitely had some amazing elements to it!

PJ - yeah, it was a weird'll have to read it. Want to borrow my copy?

Anne - I totally agree that the beginning was incredibly compelling, and the author is clearly a talented writer. But I, too, just couldn't figure out what was going on toward the end. I guess I'm just not fond of the open-ended 'it could be anything' kind of stories. :)