Monday, September 21, 2009

Children’s Books: Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Micah Wilkins lies automatically. She not only lies to family, classmates and police, she lies to the reader. Over and over. Right until the last page, you don’t know what’s true and what isn’t. Not even then.

Micah was Zach’s outside-of-school girlfriend, who ran with him, but now Zach has died and everyone is a suspect: Micah, Zach’s best friend, his official girlfriend -- everyone!

Why is Micah so fast ? Where did she get that incredible sense of smell? Why is it necessary for her to take the pill, apart from the obvious? And why does Micah’s father’s family live out in the middle of nowhere, not bothering with modern technology?

After a time, we realize that Micah isn’t the only member of her family to lie. Her father is a natural liar. Her grandmother is another. She has lied to her son and to Micah. There is a network of lies in the family, centered around “the family illness.”

I can’t go into any further detail without giving too much away. You may guess it as you read -- but bear in mind that Micah is a liar and while she tells you one ending, there are hints in the book that what has happened to her at the end is something very different.

Liar bounces around, backwards, forwards, flashbacks, family history, her own history, and somehow it works and clues build up, but Justine Larbalestier is her typical nasty self and never lets you be sure. All I can say is that at the end, I was thinking “Ouch!”

This may Larbalestier’s best book yet. Highly recommended for older teens -- younger ones tend to like things predictable and may not be happy to have to decide what really happened at the end.

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