Liar: YA suspense novel that elevates the unreliable narrator to a new level

I just finished listening to the unabridged audiobook of Justine Larbalestier's new YA novel, Liar, read by Channie Waites, and I'm here to tell you that it's Larbalestier's best book (and that's saying something). Here's a sample of the audio:

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Micah -- the unreliable narrator of this tale -- is a compulsive liar from a fraught background. Poor and biracial, she attends a posh New York alternative school through a scholarship. Her mother is a runaway, her father is from a reclusive back-woods family of illiterate survivalists, and so it's no surprise that Micah's identity is a little messed up. But Micah isn't just confused: she's deliberately confusing, a compulsive liar who fools everyone around her over and over (she is mistaken for a boy on her first day of school and so she undertakes to live as a boy, lasting days before she is found out).

But Micah's lies start to unravel when the boy she is secretly dating -- he is publicly involved with the most popular girl in school -- is murdered. As the school panics and the social order turns upside down, as Micah grieves, she is also found out, scapegoated, and suspected.

That's the setup. So far, it's your basic YA fare: complicated relationships, complicated identity, fraught situation. But Micah's circumstances grow progressively odder, as Larbalestier twists and turns the story in ways that are decidedly science fictional (or possibly fantastic) and that make this into one of the most original, oddest, and ultimately satisfying YA books I've had the pleasure of reading.

I wish I could say more. There are so many surprises in this book, and they serve to tell such a complex and delicious story of love, identity, authenticity, revenge, justice, class and race, that I don't want to give anything away. Indeed, if this book has a failing, it's that it's nearly impossible to explain what's so great about it without risking some important spoilers. So you'll just have to trust me -- this is worth the price of admission and then some.

Liar (MP3 CD unabridged audiobook)

Liar (hardcover)

Free sample of the first 20 minutes of the audiobook


  1. This is an amazing YA novel. Even as an adult reader, I was captivated and surprised at every turn. This book was not what I was expecting, and that is a good thing. I’ve been wanting to write a review since I read it, but it’s hard to express how good it is without revealing something.

  2. Didn’t you have a post up here before about their ridiculous cover with a white girl on it, instead of a black girl?

    I guess we should like the book better than we like the publishers?

  3. Hmmmmm……crazy biracial girl. Po-mo’s version of the tragic mulatta. Can’t say that the subject matter doesn’t trouble me at all. That’s all I needed as a biracial YA, perpetuation of a stereotype. But our hero comes out ahead? So the ends justify the means? But in the age of Obama the author is speaking from experience maybe? Even if it is fiction.

  4. @4, yes, and I followed it up with a post about how the publisher had done the sensible thing and put the current cover together, at some expense, with a no-foolin’ representative person of color on it.

  5. I love that they put a more representative photo on the cover, but I did find the “haircut covering the mouth” design a little more original than this pose. I guess that concept doesn’t work unless the model has straight hair.

    The cynic in me is wondering if the whole “white girl on the cover” controversy was just a brilliant strategy to get free publicity for the book, but that’s probably giving the publisher too much credit.

  6. Micah@#10,

    I have known several friends who were named Micah of various spellings and not a one lied!

    Wait.. That doesn’t count when he was dating right? Cause you know that whole “first getting to know someone” stage where everyone is a Doctor, independently wealthy or better yet an up and coming entrepreneur? Using slightly misleading but possibly true comments isn’t quite lying right? If so, than he is a rat fink… but was always a rat fink with plenty of companionship. I always said it was the 74 red convertible in cherry condition. I wonder what every happened to that car… When he went to jail (For not lying of course) I wonder what happened to it. I will have to look into that, I think he got 15-30.. for un-lying offenses… I would love to manage that car for him.. He should have someone at least check up on it, and turn over the engine… let it out a little. I am married nowadays, but I am sure the Mrs, and the kids would like to run for a while with the top down. It was a gas guzzler, so it would be a quick round the block kind of thing.

    I always seem to ramble on BoingBoing, what is it with that?!?!

  7. After reading Cory’s writeup, I’m surprised everyone has been so opinionated about a misleading cover. Isn’t that the whole premise of the novel?

    “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and all. :)

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