Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Pants Afire

I had no idea what to expect from Liar, by Justine Larbalestier.  Actually, that's not exactly true.  I had expectations, but they were unfounded, because for some reason I thought the author of this book was Laurie Halse Anderson.

I'd read one book each from Anderson and Larbalestier.  Anderson writes about high school students with complicated, challenging emotional struggles; I read Wintergirls, about anorexia.  Larbalestier wrote the Magic Lessons series that I recently started reading.  Based on the cover blurb about a high school student whose life is full of lies, and my vague memories of reading about Anderson's Speak, I rolled this book into Anderson's work.

It's not.  And I tell this whole convoluted story right off the bat because I don't want to spoil the book, so I'm going to tell you very little of what happens.  But I will say that, as unreliable narrators go, Micah is a doozie.  She's smart, winning, and tortured.  She's a teenaged New Yorker who admits to being a liar, and is something of an exile in high school.  When a classmate is found dead, her lies begin to peel away.

Now, the thing about this book is that you don't know what kind of book you're reading.  There are hints, mysteries, layers, and each one that's revealed is complicated by the question of whether it's true.  Are the hints misleading you, or are there outright lies?  And every layer that's revealed introduces a new set of questions, right up to the end. 

So at the beginning, I thought I was reading an Anderson book, about teens with emotional problems.  But as things built up, I realized I was reading a Larbalestier book, about a girl with much bigger problems than that. 

I hate to be cryptic, but untangling Micah's lies is the main point of reading the book.  She's an amazing character--blunt, brutal, needy, angry, practical, strange, envious.  Her relationships with her parents and her classmates, her perceptions of the world she lives in--she's an alienated teenager, and more.  I wouldn't like her in person, but she might be one of the best protagonists I've read about in a long time.

Fascinating, I think, is the word for this book.  And for Micah.  She's a page-turner.

1 comment:

Linden said...

Just finished Liar this weekend. It was a page-turner. I was left a little disappointed in the end, that I had no idea whether any of it was really true. And the ending that we are told just doesn't seem likely to have really happened, more like wishful thinking...