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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027
Liar - Justine Larbalestier When people ask me at work if I like mysteries, my first answer is “I prefer psychological thrillers over straight procedurals if I’m reading.” (Certain Meg Cabot series aside; not to mention, my tendency to get into TV procedurals—I can and will go on forever about how awesome Elementary is.) It’s a little snobby, I know, but there’s something more visceral whenever I’m reading a mystery and I can’t figure out what the ending in. Throw in a good twist or two, and an unreliable narrator and I am all over that. (Hence the shock when I sheepishly admit that I have not read Gone Girl. YET.) My point is this: I love it when I get to the end of an awesome mystery book and the first thing I want to do is go back to the beginning and reread it all over again, just to see what the hell I missed the first time around. And a book like Liar, where it’s outright stated that the narrator lies and shouldn’t be trusted, that just makes the rereading experience more fun.(For the record, I read this when it originally came out, mainly because the first time I had heard about the book was the attempt to white-wash the cover. The premise grabbed me, and luckily it showed up at work a few weeks later. Also, I do actually love the cover of this book.)So, I have reread Liar a few times. And even knowing what the twist is, I personally still love this book. I think it still holds up, particularly because on the subsequent rereads, you’re trying to uncover what the truth is from what Micah says. I like that not everything is completely stated in the book as to what’s happened in Micah’s life and what happened with her boyfriend, but it’s left to the reader to interpret. Sure, some of it’s completely obvious, but it’s never outright stated because it doesn’t need to be. Like what happened to Jordan, for example. Come on, it’s obvious that Micah killed him on accident when she wolfed out the first time. To be fair, that leads to my only problem with the book overall, why did Micah’s parents give her a second chance if they knew she couldn’t be held in the city? It’s the only thing I have a problem with because the whole build-up in the book doesn’t make sense if Micah’s only bound by a set of rules.For what it’s worth, I do buy into the werewolf story. And I do think that Larbalestier does manage to at least mask it well enough that whenever Micah reveals it, a lot of the intense sensations she’s been describing suddenly make more sense. (And before anyone says I wasn’t paying attention the first time I read it, my initial thought was porphyria with a side of synesthesia. If it wasn’t for Jordan and Pete, it’s probably the most plausible thought in the whole book.) And I really like that Larbalestier doesn’t treat it as a supernatural story, but rather lets Micah take a very scientific approach to it. It puts the book more into the frame of magical realism rather than paranormal YA. This isn’t so much a psychological thriller as it’s one girl forced to explore her own flaws and judge her identity by what’s expected in society. There’s a great interaction towards the end between Micah and her teacher, Yayeko, where Yayeko reaffirms to Micah that “There’s nothing wrong with being a girl, Micah. There really isn’t.” And even though at that point, Yayeko doesn’t know that Micah’s telling the truth, I love that moment because it’s acceptance. Micah may not realize it yet, but you can see how much Yayeko cares about her in that moment, that she wants to comfort Micah and find out what happened. And even though the identity crisis is one of things that’s overstated in the book (Micah doesn’t fit into any preconceived notions—she’s not fit for the city or country; she’s not a boy or a girl; she’s not black or white; and she’s certainly not human or animal.), I think it works very well. It hits more YA than most of the other elements in the book, which is one of the reasons why I think that I like it so much. It’s Micah breaking the expectations and finding out who she is. Her telling the truth isn’t to the reader, but to herself.And I think once you disconnect the whole mystery aspect, this book does work so much better as a character study rather than a whodunit. Because let’s be fair here—Zach is one of the only characters who doesn’t get as much characterization, despite being the driving force. We really don’t see a lot to him and Micah being together, aside from the choice moments Micah lets us see. I think there’s a lot more revealed of Sarah, for example, or even Tayshawn. But there’s still this undercurrent of “Was Micah the one who killed her boyfriend?” And if it wasn’t the revelation of Pete, this could have been left as extremely ambiguous, with Micah’s mention of the trial and the reporters at the school. It’s not so much a random asspull with Pete showing up being the one who killed Zach, but I think on subsequent rereads, it does feel extremely convenient. But the reason, I think, that I keep coming back to Liar (and given my big library reread, this is the first time I’ve read in a little over two years) is because I’m so wrapped up in Micah’s story and trying to grasp who she is as well. And I like that there’s no clear answer for that—Micah’s still trying to figure out who she is while fitting in as best as she can. I think it’s one of the better aspects of being a YA book, that even when you think you have yourself figured out, there’s still a lot about yourself that you’re unsure about.Sure, as a murder mystery and on a reread, it’s not as good trying to unravel the mystery behind who killed Zach and what Micah has to do with it. But I think that just taking this as a murder mystery is ignoring a huge part of the book—and that’s the part that I really like and responded to. Liar has its flaws (and some that you really can’t handwave away as Micah getting her stories crossed), but for me, I personally really enjoy this book and love diving back in to reread it.