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As you might expect, Micah Wilkins is distraught and confused when her boyfriend, Zach, is found murdered in the park. Everyone at school is surprised, too, and their astonishment over Zach’s death is only the beginning. Zach had two girlfriends? Normal Sarah and compulsive liar Micah, who once claimed to be a hermaphrodite? Micah, that weird girl who is always lying about something? No way.

Micah desperately wants us to get into her head and decides to tell the whole truth for the first time. She doesn’t want people thinking she killed Zach, and even the police seem suspicious. But she knows it’s not possible for her to have committed this heinous act. Or is it? As she’ll explain, compulsive lying easily becomes pathological lying, which means you start believing your own lies.

While the police are investigating the murder, life has to go on. Micah and her classmates at her alternative high school are just trying to deal with the loss of their friend. All of a sudden, Micah finds herself in a position in which Sarah, Zach’s “school girlfriend,” and Tayshawn, his best friend, are interested in her and want to get to know her --- the real Micah, lies aside. However, Micah isn’t sure she can let them in. Her mind is racing through her memories of Zach, her new experiences with Tayshawn and Sarah, and her overactive imagination. And all of them are mixing together.

In part two of the novel, we learn the reason Micah lies and why sometimes it’s easier to lie than to tell the truth. The story takes an unexpected and unprecedented turn, but even as it switches gears, author Justine Larbalestier keeps us completely tied in to Micah’s brain and her experiences.

I have never read a book like this before. It’s not only about grief, and it’s not just a fantasy or psychological thriller. The language is accurate and appropriate, and not always pretty. Micah admits to being herself, which is a rare thing to see in a novel or in real life. And Larbalestier deftly weaves in conflict with family, femininity, school, friends, sexuality and more without feeling as if she is trying to throw too many ingredients into one pot.

LIAR is not an easy read, nor is it particularly happy. I do believe that it loses a bit of steam at the end, concluding in a summary that feels too linear given the complicated nature of the rest of the story. Still, the novel is absolutely fascinating and gripping. The writing reflects a stream-of-consciousness way of thought, not because it rambles on and on, but because it follows Micah’s train of thought and moves us back and forth and sideways. Micah gives us her story with Zach, her family history, her school situation and her current life as she sees it in her head, all while elaborating on the certain unbelievable aspect of her life that makes her have to lie all the time.


Reviewed by Sarah Hannah Gomez on October 18, 2011

by Justine Larbalestier

  • Publication Date: September 29, 2009
  • Genres: Psychological Thriller
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
  • ISBN-10: 1599903059
  • ISBN-13: 9781599903057