Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Book About a Liar (called Liar)

Liar, Justine Larbalestier
Well, well, well.  I have very mixed feelings about this book.  I was enthralled by it!  And yet...a number of things really disappointed me.  But then, when I re-evaluate my overall position on it, considering its close, I think any ground lost is almost regained...I just feel sorry about the interpretations young people are likely to take from it;  I wouldn't recommend this to any truly young adult I know.
  • It has a great opening.  Initially, it reminded me of Wonder (in the tone of the high school description) being told instead by John Green (with focus on an unlikable or challenging character with uncensored vocabulary).
  • So yes, there is swearing.  It comes in bursts usually -- brought on by a certain sweary-character coming on the scene, for example.  Sometimes Larbalestier employs my least favourite combination (cussing and blasphemy cocktails). 
  • Teens are also portrayed as of-course-sexually-active (/gag -- I get that many teens are, but the assumption is what I don't like), and the novel spotlights some sexual exploration and sexual confidence.  As an adult, I read the reality and authenticity of this, sure, but I wouldn't want my teenager reading it.  This, and the swearing , have been celebrated by some reviewers -- claiming it is so nice to see a character who swears and enjoys sex instead of washing out characters for the YA audience.  I think with this book the danger is that a young reader who devoured it privately wouldn't have a critical discussion afterwards where the sexual content is analysed appropriately.
  • There is teen smoking and drinking too.
  • The writing was enjoyable to read.  I found physical description particulars so well interspersed between dialogue that they felt natural and delicious (instead of burdensome or disruptive). Who knew the inclusion of a hand dryer during a conversation and outlining the sequence of hand washing could enrich an exchange between characters so much?  It did.
  • The protag is so unlikable (annoying even), and yet...she is spunky and intriguing.  She is different, daring, challenges expectations and displays a lack of need for affirmation.  This is so unusual, I was taken in.  I was riveted by wanting to understand her. She is an interesting case study.  Because she is the liar, you know from the start you have an unreliable narrator.  I was fine with that.
Thinking about this book afterwards was the best part.  I don't like the idea of a teen surface-reading this book.  I do like the discussion an adult might have with friends about this book.  If you read it, I would like to talk to you about it.

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