Things can really spiral out of control with one little lie.
Our narrator quickly discovers this in the Young Adult novel, Liars, Inc., when events get out of hand when it is discovered that his best friend has disappeared and died. It all began with one little cover story, but it ended up with a full FBI investigation in which Max looks to be the guilty party in the case of his missing friend.
Liars, Inc. is essentially the story of three teenagers: Max, the former homeless boy who was adopted as a teenager and is often happy to be a part of the gang with his richer, cooler friends; Parvati, his beautiful girlfriend who has a knack for distorting the truth, but is Max’s one true confidant; Preston, the rich son of a senator with a reckless side, who ends up missing and dead (not really a spoiler, this is revealed in the opening chapter). Their interactions together and friendships lead them to starting their own little business at school, which they call Liars, Inc. Through this money-making endeavor, they will create cover stories for parents, or forge signatures, all for a few bucks. Before long, they are making a pretty solid income, as there are no shortage of high school kids looking for a lie to help them out in one way or another.
The central plot is Max being apparently framed for the disappearance of Preston. He is brought in by the FBI, and from the beginning, the clues are stacking up against him. It will be up to Max and Parvati to clear his own name. This takes us on an adventure in uncovering the clues that led up to Preston’s death. Uncovering and untangling all of the lies will take readers on many twists and turns, many of which will come as huge surprises to the intended teen audience. Author Paula Stokes explores the histories of Max, as well as the tangled past between Parvati and Preston, while taking a side journey on to the political issues of the senator father of Preston’s, before we are able to understand the truth.
Liars, Inc. is a YA novel, intended for teen audiences. As with so much current fiction in the YA genre, there is plenty of swearing and sex, which leads this novel to the higher age groups in the YA demographic. Nothing is too explicit, but enough is there that perhaps a parent would shy away from giving this novel to a 13-year-old. Aside from that, it is written in a quick enough style that should keep young readers engrossed, and many of the twists and turns will be unpredictable for them, and things they have never seen before, or previously read about.
For adult readers, there is some entertainment in Liars, Inc., and it is not a bad book at all. We are able to see the story unfolding before us, but are still left with a few surprises. Some of the craziness from the end of the novel has been seen before, and many parts of the denouement of the book read like Stokes was throwing as many rehashed teen ideas at the wall as possible, and hoping that some of it would stick (I couldn’t help but make some comparisons to She’s All That at the end of the novel). The majority of it does stick. While it may have been a tad overkill as an ending, trying to explain everything away, and there are moments that work out too perfectly well timed to be realistic, it is still a fun read.
At times Liars, Inc., read too much like Stokes was trying to dabble with too many storylines, and ended up having to mash many of them together to make the story cohesive. There are moments that could have been expanded on, and moments that could have not existed, and the story would have remained the same. While this would cause the occasional irritation to me as a reader, in no way did it dramatically affect my views on the novel. It was still good, despite not being perfect.
For the teen reader, Liars, Inc. provides enough of everything to get them to the finish line: an intriguing story, a few twists and turns, some tender moments, some romance, some friendship, and plenty of lies.