I received this book for free from HarperTeen in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Liars Inc by Paula Stokes
Published by HarperTeen on March 24, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, YA
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Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?
When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.
Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? In a story that Kirkus Reviews called "Captivating to the very end," Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.
If you’re looking for a YA mystery with an interesting premise and cast of characters, you need not look far because Liars Inc pretty much distinguishes itself from the rest effortlessly. I mean, look at the following factors and I dare you not to get excited, because I’m pretty sure you will:
✓ A male hero that actually feels like an authentic male hero
✓ A half-Indian love interest who is so comfortable with her sensuality
✓ A premise that revolves around lies and covering one’s ass with more lies
✓ A whodunit murder mystery that involves getting arrested by the FBI (or, trying not to)…
Okay, maybe the last bit is something we’ve seen a couple of times in other books, but the first three are stuff I haven’t seen yet, at least, not together in a single novel. However, I’m kind of a hard reader to please, and although I love the fact that these ideas and concepts were here, I wasn’t completely a fan of how they were executed.
Let’s talk about the male hero. His name is Max Cantrell, a young high school student whose mother died when he was a born and whose father died due to a heart attack, leaving him an orphan. He was adopted once, but ran away, and found another home in the Cantrells, a couple who treated him like a part of the family but who he is wary of trusting because of what happened to him before. I really liked this guy a lot, because his narration made it easy for me to connect to him, despite my, erm, not being a dude myself. Paula Stokes gave him a voice that felt authentic, to the point that you would think Stokes herself was a boy from a previous life and channeled her inner boy-ness, if that makes any sense. He was funny, even self-deprecating at times, talked about his doubts and trust issues, and how his girlfriend made him so crazy, which was really endearing, seeing how he was so into her.
I even loved the dynamics between him and his family. They don’t have the best family relationship by any means, especially since he himself held himself away from their reach, but I loved how natural their progress was when it comes to being there for each other despite years of wariness. I appreciated how it emphasized that stuff like trusting yourself and others, even if they’re your step-family, doesn’t come overnight. It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience, especially if you have a broken past.
Unfortunately, I was a little bit indifferent towards Parvati. Yeah, she’s so in sync with her sensualityand I love how the book spreads sex-positivity and I love the fact that she was half-Indian (woohoo for diverse characters), but I just couldn’t connect with her that much. Since she had an Indian background, I kind of expected some cultural insights included in here, too. This was exactly my problem with Lizzy in Dahlia Adler’s Last Will and Testament, which had a half-Filipina heroine – it didn’t feel like there were enough details that would make me learn more about who she were individually and culturally. I’m all for diverse characters, especially since I’m a person of color myself and it is a chance to make readers more aware and be more intimate not just with that character but with that character’s culture, too, but the latter part just didn’t feel there. In the end, Parvati made me feel nothing for her emotionally. Objectively, of course, I’m glad she was there, but the connection was simply nonexistent.
As for the plot itself, I liked how it was different. I mean, lies? A book about lies? You don’t see that everyday, especially with an authentic teenage male voice. I liked how it was paced and how well-timed the clues were, although I could probably attribute all these things to Max’s monologues and how he reacted to them and how he managed them. Unfortunately, I did find the mystery a tad bit predictable… By 60% of the book, I already had a hunch and was 100% certain I was correct, only to be proved later that I was. When the big reveal happened, it was more anti-climactic than anything else, which was further dampened with a rather long… speech… by the perpetrator, which made me cringe a bit because that long monologue pretty much detailed why he did what he did and how he did what he did, and it ended up being an info-dump for me. I don’t generally have a big problem with this, but for me, a mystery is truly effective when the perp doesn’t need to say step-by-step and detail-by-detail everything, and still, it makes sense for the readers. But in the end, if you don’t have any problems with that, this shouldn’t be a problem for you, folks.
In the end, Liars Inc was a very interesting and good read with a reliable and genuine male voice, something you don’t see far too often these days in a heroine-dominated demographic. Unless you’re as picky as me, I doubt you’d find anything really bad about this one. It’s a book with a lot of different elements that mixed really well!
3.5 Hot Espressos