Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Liar (by Justine Larbalestier)

I gave a presentation at an academic conference last week about the unreliable narrator, and used the cover of Liar as my opening graphic. This reminded me that I really should read it!

A little history: I had followed the brouhaha about the whitewashed cover with interest (and very glad the publisher ultimately changed it), but the undertones in How to Ditch Your Fairy bugged me more and more as time went on, and I never saw them addressed by Larbalestier, so I was not inclined to read this one. But I do love an unreliable narrator and had heard nothing but good things about Liar (and about the importance of being unspoiled, mostly so someone else can't frame the book for you in the context of their own interpretation).

(Speaking of which, do yourself a favor and do not highlight the spoilered text below. Don't even read the next mostly vague paragraph. Click away until you've read Liar. Then come back.)

Okay okay, you're saying, but how is Liar? Reader, it is awesome. I love the character of Micah, in spite of all her unreliability. I love that we get a character who is biracial, who is exploring her sexuality and gender identity in ways that feel very authentic. I love the ambiguity of the ending, which Larbalestier said is designed to be read in two different ways. And I am dying to hear your take away, for those of you who have read it.

Mine is that (major, major spoilers, don't highlight if you haven't read): the werewolf thing is a metaphor for Micah's losing control, that the pills are antipsychotics, and that when she forgets to take them, she has a psychotic break. The farm is an asylum, the people on the farm are doctors, nurses, and fellow patients, and Micah killed Jordan (accidentally), Zach (for whatever reason), and most likely her teacher and her family. Larbalestier has said that only one of Jordan or Pete is real, but also that they are "twins" of each other. I interpreted Pete as a manifestation of Micah's psyche, that he was her guilty conscience in a way. I guess this could be tied to the death of Jordan (which, along with the onset of puberty, is probably where Micah's psychosis began) but I haven't quite worked that out yet. As much as I really root for Micah and would love her happy ending to be true, this is the explanation that works the best for me, although I might need to re-read it to solidify my ideas.

So if you love unreliable narrators and don't mind dark YA with some fantasy elements, this one is highly, highly recommended.

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