Thursday, November 8, 2012

Liar Liar Pants On Fire

So first off, this was going to be an entirely different post today, but I finished a book yesterday and it has been stuck in my head all night, so I'm going to write about that instead.  The book is called Liar by Justine Larbalestier which besides having a thoroughly unspellable last name is quickly rising in my favorite authors list.  This book has actually been out for a couple of years and was part of a minor controversy  because of the photo originally used for the cover, but I have just now gotten to it in my pile.  This has to be one of the most frustrating, infuriating, thought-provoking, page-turning, WTF, genre defying books that I have read in a long time.  The premise could easily have gotten away from the author, but she did an excellent job keeping a leash on it, the "twist" could have killed the whole story (and has for a few people who did not finish the book), but again the masterful writing kept me going.  I am probably not being very coherent, but the book was just so...different, but in a really amazing way.

So here is where I am going stop everybody for a second, I was going to try and write this without spoilers, but really the only way to discuss it is to talk about the whole thing.  If you have not read the book yet please please please do not read any further, go get the book and read it, all the way through, even through the parts that make you throw it across the room screaming SERIOUSLY!!!!!(which by the way I would not recommend doing with your Hubbins expensive tablet...just saying). By the time you finish it hopefully you will be thinking about it as a whole.  Again do not spoil this for yourself, stop reading this post until you have finished the book and than come back and we will talk. Just a quick note before you read it or let your kids read it, this is a mature book, that deals with mature concepts not limited to sex and strong language (though interestingly enough the author actually includes a section on what makes a word a bad word hmmm)

Ok so everybody who is reading this has read the book all the way through right?!? Because if you haven't not only are you being very naughty and the spoiler fairy is going to come take the last chapter of all your books away, but you are depriving yourself of a great reading experience.  The main reason I am so adamant  about spoilers is not so much the plot itself, is that this book is best read with no pre-conceptions.  If I tell you this book is about a person suffering from a mental illness, you will miss out on a lot of elements of the story.  If I tell you it is an urban fantasy about werewolves, you may not even pick the book up.  If I tell you it is a dark depressing tale of a crazed teenage murderer...well who knows what you might think then.  To me the best part about this book is that it is all of these and quite possibly so so so much more, but before I get to far ahead of myself lets delve into the book a little shall we?
The book is split into three parts and that is how I will go through my rambling:

Part One: Telling The Truth- The book starts out with our main character Micah telling us directly that she is a liar, it is in the opening paragraph of the book and she is very clear on that, in fact if there is one thing you can actually believe whole-heartedly in this story is that Micah is in fact a liar.  Of course with an opening like this the reader is instantly on guard.  Micah speaks to the reader directly throughout the whole book, like she knows somebody is reading/listening, but it is never made clear who the audience is supposed to be.  Is it us the reader, a shrink, a detective, herself, her family?  It just adds to the surrealness of it all.  This part of the story we are introduced to the main event which is the death of one of Micah's classmates Zach.  Throughout this chapter we learn some of Micah and Zach's history together, she was his "after-hours" girlfriend.  He had a pretty and popular girlfriend, but he used to hang out and run (and kiss) with Micah on the side. This and Micah's reputation as a liar leads her to be suspected and shunned by most of her fellow classmates.  We also start to learn some of Micah's personal history and the ever present "family illness" that seems to be prevalent in Micah's thoughts.  She gives several examples of her lying (pretending she is a boy and later a hermaphrodite) her love of running (she is insanely fast) and her feelings toward Zach (running from ambivalent to love).  The scene is set, the story started, Micah is a liar never forget that.  This part of the book was probably the most coherent.  Micah tells of a life of a typical outsider teen with an ailment that sets her apart from her fellow classmates.  She has to be on birth control pills to help regulate her cycle and to keep a fine layer of hair from covering her whole body.  She lives in a cramped apartment with her Father, Mother and little obnoxious brother Jordan.  All of these things a typical teen might relate to.  I though no longer a teenager can remember back to that time and I can almost understand why Micah would make things up to get a certain type of attention, who wouldn't want the whole school to think her dad was an arms dealer?
Part Two: Telling The True Truth -As the title of this part suggests it seems like the previous version of the story Micah told us was not the whole truth, we should not be shocked at this as she had reminded us numerous times that she is a liar...but sometimes you forget because the story she is telling seems to make so much sense.  Then she drops a bomb on us, she declares that she is actually a werewolf, that the family illness (which skipped her father and her brother) is actually the fact that many of the members are in fact both wolf and human.  Micah takes birth control pills because the change is linked to her menstrual cycle and changing into a wolf is to dangerous in the city so she skips her period by taking a pill every single day.  Her parents are very strict with making sure she takes them, for if starts skipping them she will be forced to move upstate to the family farm with no chance of an education, but a safe place to be a wolf.  Wait just a minute you say, REALLY A WEREWOLF!!!!!  That is what she wants us to believe?!?! (this where I started throwing things across the room)  We already know she's a liar, and now she wants us to believe she's a mythical creature, yeah right.  The odd thing is the more you get into this part the quicker you forget that Micah is a liar and the more you want to believe what she says.  This is a very well written part, I don't know who else could take a book like this, drop in werewolves and make it plausible.  Micah tells us about a cage in her room where her parents locked her during her first change.  After that she started taking the pills so she could stay in New York City instead of going upstate to the farm.  The cage is still in her room...just in case. Micah loves being in wolf form, but wants to get an education and have life instead of being stuck up at the farm the rest of her life, so she dutifully takes her pill everyday.  This also gives a potential way for Micah to possibly have been Zach's killer if she turned and did not remember it.  Again the best part about this section is how Micah makes the werewolf story fit all of the facts from the previous part so seamlessly, in fact by the end of this part you are thinking how could there be any other explanation?  Remember Micah is a liar.
Part Three:The Actual Real Truth-Ok here is were everything starts to get super twisty.  Through out the first two parts Micah has let a couple things slip here and there, but for the most part she makes some sort of sense.  In this part she starts to lose cohesion.  This is where she starts to tell us when and wear she lied.  She does not have a brother she made him up, she did have a brother but he died, the last time she saw Zach changes several times, sometimes she tells us Zach loved her, other times he really did not care, his girlfriend Sara and best friend Tayshawn want to be with her in a physical way, Sara and Tayshawn hardly speak to her, the list goes on and on.  Micah also starts contradicting herself constantly, either trying to keep up with the lies or forgetting what really happened in the first place.  She herself is aware of the difference between a compulsive liar (a person who lies consciously) and a pathological liar (a person who believes the lies they tell so much that it becomes their truth), Micah swears she has not crossed that line, but seriously the girl is telling us she is a werewolf.  The autopsy on Zach comes back an the police say he was killed by dogs, which of course puts Micah smack dab in the middle of the suspect circle. Micah keeps up the werewolf story and discovers a young male werewolf in the city who admits to killing Zach.  She brings him to her parents who think that she turned and killed Zach.  Micah admits to skipping a pill and disappearing for four days before Zach's death, but she insists it it the boy werewolf who did the actual killing.  Micah's parents take her and the boy to the upstate farm, much to Micah's distress.  She runs away back to the city to enlist the help of her biology teacher, who lets her stay at her apartment along with her daughter and mother.  Micah tries to convince her teacher that she is really a werewolf, but her teacher thinks she was kicked out of her house because of gender identity issues.  Micah tells us she turns, but is soothed back into being human by her teacher, but it is unclear if she hurt or killed the daughter and mother first.  She throws in a random bit about reporters and a trial and slips in her tenses on occasion. In the end she tells us she is living in a tiny apartment going to college on a scholarship, she has no contact with her parents, but has made friends with some of the other runners.  She acknowledges that the ending seems to happy for everything she's been through, and that the reader has now way of knowing if she writing this from her apartment or from a padded cell, but she assures us she did get her happy ending.  The last line in the book is "would I lie to you?"
Whew this is getting to be an epic post, but I don't care, this concept is just to awesome to not chew it to shreds. I realize that my brief recap does not capture much of the book, but I'm assuming if you have read this far you have read the entire book and know mostly what I am rambling about (if not shame on you).  To me the biggest twist of the book was not the whole werewolf thing (I figured that was coming halfway through the first part), but the fact that the author did not answer ANY questions that were posed.  We are left entirely to ourselves to make our own story to fit what we have read.  I have read several great theories ranging from Micah was suffering from identity issues and that the little brother "Jordan" was her younger self and he effectively "died" when Micah hit puberty and the pills are a way to try and hang on to that boyness.  One theory states that the werewolf part is true and all of the other lies are a way for Micah to cope with what she is. Another idea is that none of this happened at all and it is just a story in her head.  My own personal favorite is the one that Micah feels responsible for the whatever happened to her little brother and cracked, the family illness sounds very much like a form of schizophrenia and the werewolf persona and the male wolf who admitted to killing Zach could easily be manifestations of Micah's subconscious.  The pills were anti-phsycotics and when she went off of them she killed Zach for any number of reasons and then her mind found a way to make her innocent.  The farm could really be a mental institution and the other wolves there would be the other patients.  Of course this is all speculation and the more I think about it the more scenario's I can come up with.  It makes me wonder if the author has her own interpretation of what really happened or if she to has several theories.  I also really liked how even though the main character was a self-proclaimed liar and possible murderer, you wanted to believe her, to like her even.  Even thought I doubt the happy ending story, I still kind of hope I am wrong and she learned to work with the system for a decent shot at life.  This is all props to the author who wrote this potentially heinous character as someone so relateable, I even want to believe in werewolves! Ok I'm gonna stop now 'cause I doubt many people will get this far down in this mega post, but please if you have read this post your theories in the comments, I know this is an older book and has been discussed numerous times before, but I could probably debate this for the next five years!

What did you think?!?  Do you like books that are left open ended, or does if feel to much like the season finale of  Lost?  Do unreliable narrators make a story more enjoyable or just frustrating?  Did you read the whole post 'cause if you did you get a gold star!

No comments:

Post a Comment