Friday 7 June 2013

Review: Liar By Justine Larbalestier

Micah lives with her parents and little brother in New York City. She spends summers with her eccentric grandmother and great aunt. She loves to run. She has a boyfriend who has gone missing. And she is a compulsive liar. Talk about an unreliable narrator!

Liar is split into three parts, and in each Micah tells a version of what she claims is the truth. I loved the first part of the book and was intrigued about the unfolding mystery around Zach's disappearance. I couldn't put the book down. Then I just about threw it down when it took an unexpected supernatural twist in part two. I thought I was getting a contemporary thriller so I was disappointed  - even angry - when it turned out I was apparently reading something else. Then I remembered Micah is a liar and decided to keep reading to figure out whether this twist was actually "true". By the third part I was very much drawn into the story again. Then the end came and there was no concrete resolution. Being a stickler for closure, I was frustrated once again.

But, I have to say, Liar got me thinking. And the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated it. You see, while you never find out the exact "truth" in the text, there are two clear options - and it's up to you to decide which one is right. There are other interpretations that work too, discussed by fans on the SPOILERY SPOILER thread at Justine's website, and reading through them kind of blew my mind. Instead of being frustrated as I initially was, I became awed at the possibilities and loved how the book really encouraged creativity and imagination in its readers. I like that you can make up your own mind about the truth. Or whether there even is a "truth".

So yes, Liar makes you think, which is awesome. But it also makes you feel, which is even awesomer. I didn't warm to Micah at first - I mean, she's a compulsive liar, it's hard to love someone like that - but boy, did she get under my skin by the end. My heart broke for her in places. She may not be likable or reliable, but she's complex and interesting and unique and fierce. This is her story, and while the facts might be blurred, the emotion is distinct and true.

Liar is a remarkable book, and has definitely made me want to read more of Larbalestier's work. It's amazing that she pulled this off and a testament to her skill as a writer. It might not work for everyone, but it really worked for me.

Rating: 4/5

Spoilery Talking Points
  • After thinking about it a lot, I believe Micah was lying about the whole werewolf thing. I think it was symbolic of her wildness, perhaps even her sexuality, that her parents tried to contain.
  • I think maybe her brother died in an accident that Micah was somehow responsible for, and she probably killed Zach during a blackout. I think the other wolf was a personification of a fragmented part of herself, the part she felt had been abandoned by her parents, the part she hated herself.
  • I think the farm is symbolic of a mental institution. It was so heartbreaking when her parents left her there.
  • At the end I think she's probably still in some sort of facility, but on her way to healing. I'd love to know if anyone else who has read Liar has any theories!

Fine Print
Published: 2011, Allen & Unwin
Get It: Bookworld


  1. I have been meaning to read this book for the longest time!

    One day maybe I will get to it!

    1. Yeah it's been sitting on my shelf for so long, glad I finally read it.

  2. This is an amazing review! I won a copy of the book a while back and didn't like what I read, so I swapped it, but I'm definitely going to check a copy out from the library and see what I think now. I read the "spoilery" parts section you included and I think, if I am going to enjoy it, that will help me enjoy it more. It sounds very interesting.

    1. Thank you Romi! Would love to know what you think if you do read it.

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  4. I really struggled with the unreliability of Micah-I think this was one of the first books I read with an unreliable narrator and she was so extreme that it was hard.

    I think she's in a mental institution or facility of some sort when she says she's on the farm. I don't remember too much else about what I thought about this one.

    1. Yes that seems like the strongest possibility to me.