book review: liar

Justine Larbalestier’s YA book Liar got a lot of press last year for Bloomsbury making the cover a photo of a white girl, when the book is about a black girl. (The version in our library has this cover.) There’s a lot of interesting stuff out there about how books are marketed and how no one wants their books shuffled off into the African Studies ghetto of the bookstore. If you check out the comments on Larbalestier’s first post on the issue there’s a lot of really good discussion before it gets into one person getting offended about the character describing herself as having nappy hair, and someone making Don Imus comparisons. I think it gets decent again, but if you’re interested in the issue, check out that post.

Controversy aside, it’s a damned good book. It’s about a 17 year old girl named Micah who is a liar. She lies about a lot of things and her sort of secret boyfriend is dead. It’s kind of a mystery, but it’s also about tradition and ambition and loads of other good things. She’s an unreliable narrator and there are a bunch of clues as to what’s going on that are laid out really well. The craftsmanship is just about perfect. I like letting myself get swept along in a story and not second-guess it too much on a first read-through, but I knew what the Shyamalan twist was going to be about halfway through, which I thought was pretty cool. But then three pages later she told us what had just solidified in my mind. I felt completely manipulated by the more obvious clues and , well, yeah. It was pretty great.

It’s going on the top of my pile for next Teen Book Club.

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