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Literature / Liar (2009)

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Liar is a Young Adult novel by Justine Larbalestier, co-author of Team Human. It's about exactly what you'd expect: Micah, the protagonist, is a compulsive liar. Throughout the novel, she copes with the death of Zach, her boyfriend, and her rather strange family.

And that's about all we can say spoiler-free. This book has an extremely huge twist halfway through, and it's hard to enjoy the book to its fullest potential if you know the twist ahead of time. In fact, Larbalestier herself kindly asked readers and reviewers not to spoil the book. To comply with this, you're warned: very large amounts of the text below will be hidden by spoiler tags, and opening them before reading the book will greatly change your perception of the book and could ruin the experience entirely.

Other books titled Liar can be found here.

Tropes that apply to Liar include:

  • Ambiguous Situation: We will never know for sure whether or not Micah killed Zach.
  • Anachronic Order: The story switches between before and after Zach's death, and it takes some breaks to tell about Micah's personal history, her family's history, information about werewolves, and Micah's lies to the reader.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Jordan. Even when Micah reveals to the reader that he's dead, she still seems to hate him.
  • Artistic License Ė Biology: Possibly done, if Micah's theory about werewolves originating from horizontal gene transfer is true. It's averted other than that, though, with everything said about the bodies, sizes, and hunting patterns of wolves being true.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: Discussed:
    Yet that's not the worst danger of being a liar. Oh no. Much worse than discovery, than their sense of betrayal, is when you start to believe your own lies.
    When it all blurs together.
    You lose track of what's real and what's not. You start to feel as if you make the world with your words. Your lies get stranger and weirder and denser, get bigger than words, turn into worlds, become real.
    You feel powerful, invincible.
    • Possibly played straight at the end, with Micah claiming over and over that she didn't kill Zach.
  • Big Applesauce: Micah really, really likes New York.
  • Big Secret: Micah is a werewolf. Or is she?
  • Bittersweet Ending: If we take Micah's words at face value, she starts living with Yayeko and her parents are prosecuted for child abuse. Zach is still dead, and even though the treatments she's getting to prevent her transformation are working, Micah is resigned to being a guinea pig for life to pay her way through college..
  • Blatant Lies: It was pretty obvious Micah lied when she said that Jordan was never real.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Micah never got a chance to tell Zach that she's a werewolf before he died.
  • Chastity Couple: Micah and Zach. Oh wait, no, that was a lie. They had tons and tons of sex.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The desk in Micah's room turns out to be the cage she uses when she transforms into a wolf. Also, the pills that stop her periods are there to keep her from turning into a wolf.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Yayeko becomes very important in the last 30 pages of the novel or so.
    • Also, the white boy that follows Micah and Zach during the latter's final days turns out to be Pete - the guy that (may or may not have) killed Zach.
  • Consummate Liar: Micah.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Micah seems to want the reader to believe one - namely, that she happened to be a wolf on the night that Zach died, but that she didn't kill him. Although since Pete could only transform into a werewolf when Micah did, it's not that big of a coincidence.
  • Cool Teacher: Yayeko, Micah's biology teacher. Micah says she's the only teacher that she actually likes.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Micah really, really doesn't want to be a werewolf.
  • Dead All Along: Jordan, although Micah's status as an Unreliable Narrator means it was played a bit differently than this trope normally is. Jordan's being dead wasn't a surprise to any of the characters; Micah just failed to mention it.
  • Death Is Dramatic: Micah spends most of the book angsting over Zach's death and eventually finding his murderer.
  • Did Not Die That Way: The official story was that Zach had been killed by dogs, but Micah (probably correctly) assumed that he'd been killed by a wolf. Which may have been her.
  • Do Not Spoil This Ending: Larbalestier has asked readers not to spoil the major twist of this book. This has not stopped nearly everyone who reviews it negatively.
  • Enemy Within: Either subverted or played straight, depending on whether or not Micah killed Zach.
  • False Innocence Trick: Possibly pulled on the reader, depending on whether or not Micah was lying about not having killed Zach.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Micah gets called to the principal's office for lying about her gender, even though it wasn't hurting anyone, and it was her teacher's fault for making the mistake in the first place. It also happens when she lies about being intersex.
  • Flashback: They make up approximately two-fifths of the book, as Micah talks about Zach before his death and her childhood.
  • Flashback Twist: Jordan was real, and he's dead.
    • This also applies to every single interaction with Micah's extended family in part one of the book; they're all changed with the knowledge that everyone involved is a werewolf.
  • Foreshadowing: There's plenty.
    • Micah talks about smelling things a ton throughout the first part of the novel. It's because she's a wolf.
    • After Micah tells us that Jordan never existed, he's still mentioned a lot. The most notable example is when, as part of a theory from therapist for why Micah lies, it's said that Micah is angry or resentful of Jordan, and then mentioned in parentheses that he doesn't exist. He actually does exist - he was just Dead All Along.
    • The first line of the book is that Micah was born with a coat of fur.
    • The frequency with which Micah mentions her pills makes you think that something worse than a painful period will happen if she forgets.
    • Micah's attempts to avoid the genetic test at school. At first, it looks like this is because the results will show she's not human. Actually, it's because the results will show she is.
  • Friends with Benefits: Micah and Zach, as it turns out. Micah says he was her boyfriend, but it was really more of this.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Micah Wilkins, so much that a teacher addresses her as "Mr. Wilkins" and she keeps up the facade for two days.
  • Genre Shift: It goes from contemporary to fantasy halfway through. And then possibly back to contemporary at the end.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Micah really doesn't want to be a werewolf, a fact that most of her family doesn't understand.
  • Interspecies Romance: Micah and Zach, as well as Micah's parents.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: Micah's transformation into a werewolf, although she can control it using pills that stop her periods.
  • Jerkass: Brendon. His sole role in the story is to make everybody at school hate Micah for no good reason.
  • Left Hanging: We never do find out for sure everything Micah was lying about. This either makes a wonderfully open, ambiguous ending, or frustratingly rushed, dissatisfying ending.
  • Love Triangle: Between Sarah, Zach, and Micah, before Zach dies.
  • Liar Revealed: When we find out that Micah was lying to the reader.
  • Lying to Protect Your Feelings: "No one suggested that the world is better the way I tell it."
  • Menstrual Menace: Micah only becomes a werewolf while on her period.
  • Mind Screw: It's basically impossible to tell which parts of the story are true and which parts aren't, because Micah constantly lies to the reader. Was she really a werewolf or not? Did she kill Jordan? Zach? It's even possible that the entire thing is made up by Micah.
  • Muggle and Magical Love Triangle: Micah being Zach's magical girlfriend, and Sarah being his muggle one. Downplayed, since he doesn't know that Micah is a werewolf.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Micah thinks this of Pete.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: The book mostly has no problem with saying curse words, but at one point, in Micah's censorship class, one word is skirted around - it's said to be written on the blackboard, but nobody is brave enough to say it in the dialogue. Most fans agree that the word was probably 'cunt'.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Micah towards Zach, which ended up being pretty bad for her; see Cannot Spit It Out above.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. A large plot point in the book is that Micah takes pills to avoid her periods, because they were incredibly painful; this becomes even more the case when we find out that periods cause the change into a werewolf.
  • One of the Boys: Micah wants to be one, to the point where she lied to everyone at her high school about her gender for a couple days.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: The change isn't caused by the full moon, but by mensuration. (Yes, even in the males.) Because of this, it's possible to block a change by taking pills to avoid having your period.
  • Painful Transformation: Micah's transformation into a werewolf is extremely painful.
  • Race Lift: Not in the text of the book, but the original cover made by the publisher was that of a white woman, when Micah is biracial. The author was not pleased by this change, leading to the revised cover at the top of the page.
  • Red Herring: Pete, if Micah is lying to us about him, which is fairly likely.
  • Resist the Beast: Micah does everything she possibly can to avoid turning into a werewolf.
  • The Reveal: It happens every time Micah reveals that she lied to the narrator, and when she tells us that she's a werewolf.
  • SchrŲdinger's Butterfly: It's entirely possible that every single thing that happened in the story was made up by Micah. That's not entirely likely, but it is fairly likely that she was lying about who killed Zach. And there's also the question of whether Jordan is alive, or even if he's real.
  • Seamless Spontaneous Lie: Micah is pretty good at them.
  • Sham Supernatural: Played with. Micah is a pathological liar. She lies about being intersex, so is she also lying about being a werewolf? Most of what she says could be explained by being from a very dysfunctional family and being a liar who can't accept that she killed Zach.
  • Shapeshifter Mode Lock: One of Micah's great-uncle is permanently transformed into a wolf.
  • Shout-Out: According to Word of God, Micah pretending to be a boy was meant to be a shout out to Leviathan, a series written by her husband. In that series Deryn also pretends to be a boy (albeit for completely different reasons).
  • Slut-Shaming: Micah is the victim of it a lot when people find out that Zach cheated with her, under the assumption that the two of them had sex. They actually did have sex, although her classmates had no way of knowing that.
    • Supporting character Erin Moncaster is another victim.
  • Smells Sexy: Micah talks about smelling a lot because she's a wolf, and some of Zach's smells are described to be... arousing.
  • Soap Opera Disease: The 'family disease' that Micah talks about appears to be this, until you find out that the 'disease' is actually just being a werewolf. Or may not exist at all.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: Micah's first lie that got her in school trouble came off as this, where a teacher addressed her as "Mr. Wilkins". Micah doesn't think it's worth embarrassing the teacher, so she goes with it for a couple of days.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Micah. Did. Not. Kill. Zach. She says this a ton throughout the novel.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Played with; Micah pretends to be a boy for two days of high school, but it was more out of convenience and because she wanted to be a boy than because she wanted to accomplish a specific goal.
  • That Liar Lies: Other characters say this to Micah all the time.
  • Think of the Children!: It's discussed that censorship is more likely to occur in media for children and teens than for adults. Micah has a theory as to why:
    It's because grown-ups donít remember what it was like when they were teenagers. Not really. They remember something out of a Disney movie and thatís where they want to keep us. They donít like the idea of our hormones, or that we can smell sex on one another. That we walk down halls thick with a million different pheromones. We see each other, catch a glance, the faintest edge of one, that sends a shiver through our bodies all the way to the parts of us our parents wish didnít exist.
  • Token Religious Teammate: Sarah.
  • Unreliable Narrator: It's so bad that she actually lies about lying. First she mentions her brother Jordan often, then she says she made him up, then she mentions that he did exist but he died. To the point where she says she's not even sure what really happened at the end.
  • Wham Line: "I'm a werewolf."
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Micah makes this promise at the beginning of the book, and actually carries it out. It looks like that for a while, anyway; we find out halfway in that she's a werewolf, and from there, everything kind of... falls apart.