Review Blog

Nov 10 2009

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2009. ISBN 9781741758726.
(Ages 14+)Recommended. When Micah hears of Zach's death she is stunned. Not for her the tears and running to the toilet block as do the other girls in her senior class, but she asks questions of her biology teacher about how long bodies take to deteriorate. Her classmates stare at her, fascinated, wanting the information themselves but shocked at her callousness. Some take it further, resorting to the name calling they spat out when she first arrived. Back then when word of her lies spread around the school like a cloud, other students felt impelled to stare, ask questions and call her names. Now, the whispers and looks have come back, as some braver than the rest, mouth the word murderer as she passes.
So it is up to Micah to prove she did not kill Zach. She has seen a white boy hanging out in Central Park where she and Zack used to run, but fails to find him. She becomes closer to Sarah and Tayshawn, Zach's friends and they go to places where Zach used to hang out in search of some greater understanding. But Micah's self is changing and in that change her parents question her and attempt to place some controls over her. School is worse, with people staring and shunning her, only Sarah and Tayshawn showing any interest in her at all. And all the time she is aware of the suspicions of the Police, her parents and the teachers.
Divided into three sections, Telling the truth, Telling the true truth and The Actual real truth, Larbalestier keeps the reader guessing until the last page, and even then, questions will dog the reader for some time after. Nothing is solved, no truth is absolute, nothing is probably what it seems. Micah reveals what has happened to her to the reader, but then derides herself for telling lies, and purports to tell the reader the truth , again. So the reader is always on edge, wondering which piece of the narrative is true and which a lie. And this is kept up for the whole story.
Superbly written, tightly plotted, with believable and sympathetic characters, this book grabs the reader from the start. The tactile cover with its blobs falling into letter shapes, the size of the book, the lovely print, the short chapters, the chapter headings bringing the thought processes into play before the narrative begins, all is designed to entice, thrill and seduce the reader. I was hooked before I began to read. Then the words held me to the end. And I know the story will stay with me for a long while, and be the subject of discussions with others who have had the engrossing experience of reading a story by a clever and gifted writer.
Recommended for middle secondary readers who want a story unlike any other they have read, who are willing to suspend belief and take on a different set of values as they go into Micah's world. Set in New York, the city is more than a background against which the story is set, it invades every scene and inhabits every event which occurs, so that the reader will feel they know the city before they finish the book.
Fran Knight.

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