Review: Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Liars, Inc. by Paula StokesLiars, Inc. by Paula Stokes
Published by HarperTeen on March 24, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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three-half-stars

It all starts with one little lie…

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell lies 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 a business providing forged permission slips and cover stories for the students of Vista Palisades High. Liars, Inc. they call it. 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? Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.

Liars, Inc. is a book I wouldn’t have read if it weren’t by Paula Stokes. I loved Paula’s The Art of Lainey and I also consider her to be a friend, so I was curious about Liars, Inc. even though mystery thriller books aren’t generally my thing. Those are the two things you need to know in the spirit of full disclosure. I’m glad that I read Liars, Inc. but I also probably would have liked it more if I were a mystery reader by nature.

What impressed me most in Liars, Inc. was definitely Stokes’ writing. Though they’re very different, Lainey and Liars do share the vibrancy of Stokes’ narratives. She has a real talent for voice. Her male narrative is perfect and completely disparate from Lainey, but both immediately fleshed out into real-seeming people for me. That’s something that’s so hard to do, and it’s even more impressive when writing a character not of your own gender. Major props for that.

Liars, Inc. opens with a prologue showing Max running dramatically from the FBI. This is a pretty common narrative device to engage the reader in how the heck circumstances got to that point, before then going back to the start. It’s definitely effective, if a bit overused. However, Stokes did something cool with this. Her prologue actually comes from the middle of the book, which really did surprise me.

That surprise rolls into elements of the ending that I did not see coming. Though I did call the final twist pretty early on, I didn’t predict the way things would ultimately play out. In YA mysteries, there tends to be a lot of stuff that requires suspension of disbelief surrounding the involvement of the police. I think Paula makes the outlandish plot play out in a really convincing way. I can’t say much more on that without spoiling things, but I thought it worked out well.

I also really love the messages on family in Liars, Inc. Max grew up in and out of foster homes, sometimes living by himself on the beach. His childhood was rough. He finally got adopted by a kind family, the Cantrells, and is one of four adopted kids now. Throughout Liars, Inc. he learns to really appreciate his family. Max isn’t very good at identifying emotions or trusting others, so he always held the Cantrells at arm’s length. Seeing him open up and learn to trust, despite all the shit, is really touching.

Where I’m a little less into Liars, Inc. are some of the characters. I do think that Stokes does a really good job making unlikable characters really interesting. I never really liked Max, Parvati or Parker, but they are fascinating and I wanted to know their stories. However, I really wasn’t invested in Max’s relationship with Parvati and had very little interest in that aspect. I think, ultimately, I wanted to see a bit more from her than the wild, dangerous, sex kitten. She’s such a dream girl, and even her flaws seem so predictable.

Liars, Inc. is a book I highly recommend for mystery readers and for those who like to check out books about unlikable characters. If what you’re looking for is the adorable shippiness of The Art of Lainey, adjust your expectations.

Favorite Quote:

“It’s like that. When you care about someone so much that you’ll do anything—even stupid or destructive things—to protect them.”

“That sounds more like mental illness than love.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif two can keep a secret pretty little liars

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