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.
Paula Stokes does a fabulous job at making unlikeable characters readable. I didn't ever come to like Max, Parvati, or Preston, but you don't have to like characters to be interested in their story and I was definitely interested.
The strongest aspect of the novel for me was the narration. I don't often read male points-of-view; this isn't really a conscious choice, I just tend to read female first-person POVs more often than male ones. Max's voice was so strong and leapt off the page from the very beginning. It really feels like you're in his mind.
The mystery is gripping. I thought I knew where it was going, but my first guess was completely wrong! I love when stories are unpredictable and keep you on your toes.
What Left Me Wanting More:
It was a little tough for me to get into the story in the beginning, but once the mystery picked up, I was hooked.
The Final Verdict:
LIARS, INC. is a compelling story with a sharp narrative voice and a mystery that will suck you in.
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 pain, is really touching.
What Left Me Wanting More:
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.
The Final Verdict:
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.
I went into this book a little nervous since it was a mystery/thriller and the twists aren’t always huge surprises. But this book managed to do just that. It surprised me and I loved that. I was able to figure some of the twists out but I was blown away by others, which I liked because after finishing it, I was able to reflect and see where those twists were coming from instead of them making no sense.
I really liked the character of Max. His mother died during birth and his father died from a heart attack a few years later so Max is an orphan, one who grew up in the system and was homeless for a while until he was adopted by the Cantrells. He wasn’t a jock, he wasn’t involved in any school clubs, he saw himself as pretty plain. He was smart and he cared about his friends and his adopted family, even if he had trouble trusting them. I found it easy to understand where his issues with trust and his jealousy were coming from and how that affected him with how to react to trying to avoid the police and clear his name.
Preston and Parvati were interesting characters. Both were rich kids who’d been expelled from their previous school and ended up befriending Max. Preston was the star of the school, beloved football player, and Parvati was involved in the newspaper and raised by strict parents. The author did a great job of developing them so I could see why they’d be friends with Max, to give them their own distinct voices, but also held back enough to make them suspicious at times. Because this was a book where I felt suspicious of everyone at one point.
The romance between Max and Parvati was nicely done. It was always there but it never overtook the plot. They could be cute together but when they had issues, I thought it was handled realistically.
The plot was very fast paced and action packed. It seemed like every chapters had another twist or another clue. Something was always happening. This was the type of book that could make the reader’s head spin with so many wild theories with none of them even close to being right. It all came to a conclusion that left my jaw dropped. My mind was bent. The few things I has figured out paled in comparison to how much I did not see the ending coming. I loved that I was fooled.