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One of the trickiest narrative voices is an unreliable one, because readers are accustomed to a story’s narrative voice being honest. Can a book work when we can’t trust the main character?
Liar proves that it most definitely can.
Micah is a chronic liar, as she’s quick to point out. But now she has expressing the desire to come clean, and tell the truth about something important. Her boyfriend Zach has died, apparently having been murdered, and Micah is a prime suspect.
While trying to talk about Zach and his death, Micah tells readers much about her life, her past and her problems. She speaks candidly about her habit of lying … or, at least, she appears to. But as the novel progresses, readers will learn a startling fact about Micah. At that point, we must decide if her story is real, or just another lie.
Discussing this book is a struggle, because I don’t want to give away the plot. Every page reveals something different. The narrative is a tapestry of vignettes that range all over the spectrum, from school and home to other, darker things. While the narrative seems chaotic at first, it soon makes a disquieting kind of sense.
Larbalestier deserves credit for taking a character who shouldn’t be likable and getting readers to not only like her, but feel sorry for her. The very lies that permeate the tale build a warped kind of framework around Micah. We learn about her because of – and in spite of – her lies.
This story must be experienced; trying to convey its atmosphere and flow secondhand doesn’t do it justice. Liar is a book to run out and buy right away.
And don’t blame me if it keeps you up at night, wondering what to believe!
This review originally appeared in the Davis Enterprise on February 18, 2010.