I'm not even sure where to start this review there's so much going on with this book. The plot in Justine Larbelestier's Liar (2009) is so intricate and crazy awesome that the author has asked readers to please not post spoilers in their reviews (I wouldn't know how to explain the spoilers even if I did want to post them). Aside from that, the book has gone through three different covers and created a bit of controversy on the way. It doesn't relate to the story, but I think if you want to understand this book you really need to know about all the covers.
In Australia, Liar features a pretty straightforward and rather eerie cover with the title written in what, I think, is blood. In the United States, the advanced copies of the book were sent out with a cover featuring a white girl with long hair draped across her face so that only her eyes and nose are visible. Which is fine. The cover is pretty intense and kind of true to the story.
Except it's completely wrong as a representation of Micah, the main character in Liar. Micah is a black girl who wears her naturally nappy hair short and who could easily pass as a boy. Larbalestier has also said she imagined Micah looking like Alana Beard from the WNBA. The girl on the cover looks more like fellow YA author Maureen Johnson. And that's sad because, as I will mention later, Micah is one hell of a strong character and she does not deserve to be "white-washed" on her cover (which on top of everything else also invalidates some of the fundamental truths Larbalestier intended to exist in the novel).
On her blog, which I have been crazily linking to throughout this post, Larbalestier has written a thorough and eloquent post about what happened to the American cover of Liar as well as the general difficulty in finding a book with a black face getting mainstream support from publishers. There is an often unchallenged belief, as Larbalestier mentions, that "black books don't sell" which resulted in the rather inaccurate cover of Liar. Since then, when the controversy peaked, a call for change was heard. And answered. Now Liar has a new cover that better captures Micah (exactly as I imagined her actually) which will be available on the hardcover edition in the USA.
And now you are ready to hear about the rest of the book.
One of the only true things Micah will tell you about herself is that she's a liar. She has always been a liar. She comes from a long line of expert liars. But Micah doesn't want to lie anymore. Especially not to you--the one person she hasn't lied to. Yet.
Lies are easy. Micah is quickly learning that the truth is a harder thing to manage. When her secret boyfriend dies, Micah's carefully crafted lies begin to peel away. One by one. Until all Micah is left with is the cold, hard truth. Or is she?
The author (and the back flap) describe Liar as a thriller. Strangely I never used the word to describe it myself, but now it seems so obvious. The story is rife with tension and Micah's intricate narration add another level of suspense to the story.
Larbalestier's writing is amazing. She (and Micah) had me convinced I was reading one kind of book right until they told me I was reading something else. Then the story changed on me again. At this point, I'm not really sure what I read. I think I know. But maybe I'm lying about that. All I know for sure is that Liar is an amazing ride that will leave you breathless.
Possible Pairings: What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, Madapple by Christina Meldrum