Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: LIAR by Justine Larbalestier

Larbalestier, Justine. Liar. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009. ISBN: 9781599905198. 384 pages. $16.99. Young Adult. Grade 9 and Up.

Set in New York City and rural upstate New York, Liar follows Micah, a high school senior with a penchant for compulsive lying. She is seeking the truth about her boyfriend’s murder, and she seeks her own peace about being a werewolf. Her attempts to reconcile human and wolf are complicated by race, sexual orientation, and socio-economic stratification in a complex high school and urban environment.

The story opens as Micah deals with her “boyfriend” Zach’s grisly death. When she becomes the prime suspect, she must race to find the real killer. But one side effect of her time in wolf form is memory loss. So, while she suspects that the killer might be another werewolf, she is not altogether sure that she isn’t indeed responsible for Zach’s death herself. As she works through grief and possible guilt, we discover that her need to lie compulsively stems from her parents’ desire to keep the “family illness” a secret. The relationship with her parents is complicated by another mystery, the death of her little brother. Micah hopes to prove her innocence and thus stave off permanent exile to the family’s farm in rural New York. Most importantly, she hopes for the courage to reveal the truth about the “family illness.”

Larbalestier’s story artfully incorporates the supernatural into the complexities of multicultural existence in modern America.

Part psychological thriller, the story is not linear; Micah bounces between telling of present and past events. Sometimes this is confusing. Nonetheless, the writing is smart, fast paced, and beautifully constructed. At its conclusion, we and Micah realize just how inconsequential the truth can be.

Heather Tylock

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