October 24th, 2009

grab ya

October Book

'That Sarah,' you may well be saying to each other. 'Gallivanting off to Mexico, never a thought for her solemn promise to give away a book a month in 2009.'

But I always keep my promises, and here is my post about my October Book.

It is Liar by Justine Larbalestier.

Now, Liar is a hard book to talk about, because it is an important book not to spoil. I don't just mean it's important not to spoil the ending - spoiling the ending of any book is often considered a bad move. It's important not to spoil the middle of Liar. It's important not to spoil chapter two. It's important not to talk about which genre Liar is.

Unfortunately this leaves one waggling one's hands vaguely and going 'It is a BOOK. Very fine. Cover and pages and everything. The words in it - very well chosen and arranged. You should read it - it will be most enjoyable!'

Speaking of covers, there was controversy about the cover of Liar, as follows. I will not speak of it much, as really, it has all been said, and Liar is a book which deserves to be talked about independent of its cover, but it is a very good example of the way authors have almost no control over their covers - and how important it is to think about books, and marketing, and our society's attitude to issues like this.

Though I love the new cover of Liar and am hugely glad right prevailed, I wish to talk about the insides of the book and why those insides are so awesome.

I am always complaining about 'urban fantasy' because I love the idea of urban fantasy and it makes me despair when books do not have a real sense of place: I love books with really well-done settings, so I believe in whatever happens against a rich, realised backdrop. Micah, the heroine of Liar, is a city girl in the same way I am, loving both the good and bad sides of city life. New York City is in her blood, dirt and sunlight and subways and beauty. The reality of a summer in New York grounds this really twisty tale.

And talking of twisty tales - I am a big fan of mysteries. I have an eternal love for a good twist ending. I used to place bets on Agatha Christie books. I have read all the Wilkie Collins books I have been able to get my hands on because he created the modern detective novel, and love them all even though they are crazy (Acrobats with no legs, dudes with blue faces, evil twins whose hands drop off, the only way to solve this mystery is lots and lots of opium!). What Liar does is really fascinating: it has a whole new approach to the mystery novel.

Micah of Liar is well, as the title implies, a compulsive liar. Her point of view transforms the reader into the detective of the mystery novel, and makes Liar subtly into a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. The murder in Liar seems very real to me because the book underlines how horribly hard a detective's job must be: never to be quite sure how it all went down, listening to a lot of lies and a lot of half-truths and a lot of whole truths, with no idea which is which.

And then there is Micah herself. I think Micah is awesome. She is also really complicated and problematic and troubling, and I expect the author is getting a lot of flak for her. (I get a lot for my troubling, troubled and definitely-not-an-everyman protagonist, and Micah has it harder because she's a girl.) She's a girl with issues about that which I think a lot of girls can relate to, and she has issues about her race which are mixed in with her issues about her identity, and she's a liar in a way that I think a lot of kids who grew up telling stories can see a part of themselves in. And she's spikily defiant about who she is, letting us know more about herself than she means to. When we empathise with characters like that, we look into dark mirrors. It's not comfortable. But it is cool.

I am terrified to say more about Liar in case I spoil it. But - beautiful writing, a murder mystery, a difficult daring girl at the centre. What's not to love?

So speak up: who would like a copy of Liar?