Liars and Losers Like Us
If you’re a big fan of John Hughes films like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink, then Liars and Losers Like Us will work perfectly for you. It features a cast of eclectic personalities, slice-of-life events that tap into the values and lives of modern teenagers, and we even get a homage through Bree’s last name being Hughes! That last point might not have been intentional, but I just made it part of the canon. Hughes’s films could be a bit annoying and overwhelmed by privilege at times, but Allen-Vath avoids that pitfall deftly with conversations like Bree discussing how people treat her once they learn she’s Mexican.
Anyway, Bree makes for a fine narrator and her romance with guitar-playing quarterback Sean is as believable as it is incredibly cute–and the two are such compatible dorks that you’ll be grinning at their banter. Even with that, another character steals the spotlight: Maisey. After years of being bullied and being joke-nominated to the prom court, Maisey commits suicide halfway through the book. A letter she leaves behind for Bree leaves the girl reeling.
In another book, Maisey would be defined only by Bree’s impressions of her and someone’s philosophizing about how no one will ever understand her now that she’s gone. That’s not how Liars rolls. That her death comes only halfway through and Bree is able to see the aftermath of her death allows for a clear picture of who Maisey was and what led her to her decision. Most appropriately, Maisey has the final word; the novel ends with her letter to Bree. That letter makes it easier to understand what Maisey went through and might just make the reader into a better person.
What Left Me Wanting:
Though Maisey’s death is handled well, it creates mood whiplash when combined with the subplots related to Bree’s romance and her preparation for prom. We’ll go from nearly laughing at characters’ banter to thinking about Maisey, creating a hiccup that can be powerful enough to make readers put the book down for a bit. The pacing is uneven with a mild stumble of a start, a deeply compelling middle, and a sixty-page stretch before the climax that slows things down again. Though the mood whiplash accurate depicts how life can be when someone we vaguely know commits suicide, it doesn’t make for a novel that’s easy to read in one sitting.
There are questions left unanswered as well, such as what exactly has gone on in Jane’s life to make her such a horrible person. We get hints toward it, but it isn’t as developed as it could be. Similarly, cracks are visible in Kallie and Bree’s friendship, but they aren’t properly addressed. For instance, Kallie deliberately keeps Bree in the dark about her (Kallie’s) mom’s health, but Bree never pursues it after she finds out about the lie. Casual ableism in the form of “crazy” being overused as a descriptor may bother some readers as well.
(However, it’s worth noting that Ami Allen-Vath is very open about her time spent in psychiatric hospitals as a patient. The ableism is there solely for the sake of capturing teen language. Just worth noting if that’s triggering for you or it’s not something you can handle at certain times.)
Liars and Losers Like Us is like a John Hughes film updated for modern audiences and put in book form, but even that isn’t an apt enough description. It’s just good. I connected to it and enjoyed it more than any other prom-related book and it’s just tiny enough to be prime reread material during a reading slump. I’m quite happy to recommend it to readers who want a solid contemporary YA with a classic feel.
,very cute romance between Bree and Sean
,Maisey's characterization is incredible and leaves a lasting impression
Readers are sure to relate with seventeen-year-old Bree Hughes as she gets to be on the Prom court only after one person declines after being nominated as a 'joke'. Maisey has been the butt of bullying since elementary school. Bree struggles with guilt as she never went out of her way to stand up against the bullying. When Maisey kills herself? This sends Bree into panic attacks. These attacks felt real as does the guilt and conflict she deals with after Maisey's death.
Bree's attraction to football player Sean isn't filled with anguish especially after he reveals the truth about himself. The dialogue between these two is humorous and there is a spark of chemistry that continues throughout the novel.
One plus of this novel has to be how the masks the so-called 'In' kids wear are torn off to reveal the truths. Even Mean Girl Jane has a vulnerability that readers see toward the end of the novel. The party scene where the Prom committee come together is real and honest.
What I did have issues with had to be the whys behind Maisey killing herself. It's not revealed until the last chapter. I felt that the story skidded over the tragedy of Maisey's suicide and instead focused on all the drama behind Prom. It almost felt as if Maisey's death is pushed aside so more of the high school drama can unfold. And there's lots of drama.
Saying this, I know that everyone grieves in different ways. Bree's panic attacks come right after the death. Still, overall, I think the whole suicide part of this story was brushed aside. I personally feel it would have been better to address right at the start and not only at the very end of the novel. But that's just my opinion.
Dark coming-of-age story that addresses sensitive topics such as bullying and suicide while set behind a Prom background.