Title: Liars, Inc.
Author: Paula Stokes (The Art of Lainey)
For fans of Gone Girl, I Hunt Killers, and TV’s How to Get Away with Murder.
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.
I loved Paula Stokes’s debut, The Art of Lainey, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from her dramatically different sophomore effort. While I didn’t love it as much as the fluffy fun of The Art of Lainey, it was still an intriguing mystery that kept me guessing some of the time.
I was a bit surprised by how little a role the whole “Liars, Inc.” played in the book. It was started up kind of randomly in the beginning, so it was heavy on their little group, but Preston soon went off to meet the girl referenced in the summary and the concept of the Liars, Inc. fell by the wayside. Not a problem necessarily, just something that threw me a bit.
The mystery is definitely the most interesting part of this story, but I have to admit that I was a little let down by it at times. There were some twists that I didn’t see coming, but there were other ones that I definitely did and it was annoying when Max, the protagonist, didn’t even guess that they might be possible twists. I know, he’s supposedly a real person, so he’s thinking more logically than I am as a person reading a fictional book, but come on, how did you not see some of the stuff coming?
The main trio – Max, his girlfriend, Parvati, and his missing best friend, Preston, all had their interesting moments. At the beginning, I was unimpressed with Parvati – she seemed more like Max’s ideal girl than a real girl, but she grew a bit over the course of the book, so I’m willing to forgive that. Since he disappears close to the beginning of the book, Preston doesn’t have a very big visible role, but we learn plenty about him to keep his character interesting. I would have liked to learn more about some secondary characters, though, like Max’s adopted family – we got to listen to him complain about them a lot, but it’s also clear that he cares about them and it would have been nice to see more of them.
There was a nice bit of diversity for this book, but it wasn’t the focus at all, so I didn’t feel like I could include it in my Dive into Diversity challenge. Max is a former foster kid/runaway who lost both of his parents as a child and now lives with his adopted parents and siblings. He has a sister with cystic fibrosis and there are two twin baby girls who are adopted from an Asian country that eludes me at the moment. His girlfriend Parvati is biracial, with an Indian mother, and Max has to deal with the fact that she and their best friend, Preston, are both quite wealthy while his family is struggling to make ends meet most of the time.
The Adult Situation
Much of the book takes place on and after Max’s eighteenth birthday, and that combined with the fact that he lived on his own as a homeless kid for a number of years and he never got really, really close with his adopted parents equal not that much adult supervision. Max spends much of the book running around trying to figure out what’s going on, and he doesn’t really have the time to check in with parents. It’s understandable, of course, but like I said, I would have loved to see more of his parents as characters, especially his adopted mother, Darla, whose character is more developed than her husband’s.
Max and Parvati are already dating when the book starts, so there aren’t really any awkward romance-building moments in the middle of the mystery, which I appreciated. I didn’t care for the romance much at the beginning, but after the mystery revealed various things and Parvati’s character grew, I think I appreciated it more, although I was still glad that it didn’t become the focus of the book over the mystery.
Since all the big reveals and twists came at the end, it was obviously the most interesting part of the book. Even though I had seen some of the twists coming way in advance, I didn’t guess everything, so there was still an element of mystery that kept the ending interesting.
I didn’t love this book as much as Stokes’s debut, but I’m excited to see that she’s willing to try different genres and concepts with her writing. I’m definitely looking forward to whatever she writes in the future, even if it’s not the fluffy fun that I know she can write wonderfully.