Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes
Publication Date: March 24, 2015
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
What I Liked:
This novel is very different from what Paula Stokes/Fiona Paul has written in the past. The Art of Lainey was a fun contemporary novel, a great summer read. The Secrets of the Eternal Rose trilogy was an intriguing historical fiction series with some mystery and science elements to it. This book, Liars, Inc., was straight-up whodunit mystery, part thriller as well. To be honest, I'm kind of hit-or-miss when it comes to whodunit mystery novels, but I give them their fair chance, and I've enjoyed this author's other four published novels. I enjoyed this one as well, just not as much as I'd hoped.
Max, his girlfriend Parvati, his friend Preston create Liars, Inc., a business of a sort, in which Max forges signatures, swaps tests, makes fake phone calls, etc., for a price. It doesn't take long for the money to start pouring in. One day, Preston asks Max to cover for him - pretend they're camping, when Preston is really traveling to Las Vegas to meet someone. Max goes along with it... but then Preston doesn't come back. Max is being framed for Preston's disappearance... murder... and several other charges. Max will have to find out what is really going on, before he goes to jail for crimes he never committed.
I really, really enjoyed the mystery of this book. I know I just said that mystery/whodunit stories are hit-or-miss for me, but I really enjoyed this one. I didn't guess the killer's identity (which is a surprise, because I usually pick up on these things fairly quickly). I had no idea who the killer was. I had some feelings, but nothing that would have pointed in the actual direction. Props to Stokes for creating an effective and rather twisted mystery story. I liked not being able to figure it out! Kind of. Heh.
I liked Max a lot. He seems like a plain guy, nothing special, but plenty of backstory and a past. He's adopted. His mom died in childbirth and his dad died when he was young (like, eight or nine or ten or something). He went to a foster home, ran away, and then went to a boy's orphanage, where his adoptive parents found him. Max is a good guy. He never felt like he really fit in with Preston and Parvati - they both came from a fancy prep/private school, for super rich kids. Both are filthy rich and they know it.
That being said... I thought the characterization of all the characters was well-written. I'm not saying I liked all the characters (I most certainly did not), but all of them had a good deal of depth. I liked some, I didn't like some, but all were realistic and authentic teenagers in high school.
The story was very action-packed and never stopped developing. It felt like something was happening on every page, something that threw the entire story. Constant twists and turns, heart-pounding, nonstop action. I liked the pacing of the story. It was fast, but in a good way. This story was very easy to read and very easy to get caught up in.
So... I liked the story a lot. This book probably would have gotten at least one more star if not for a few things - a few significant things. Overall, I really, really enjoyed this book. I liked it while I was reading, and I couldn't put it down.
What I Did Not Like:
Okay, here's why I didn't like this one as much as it seems I should have: I didn't like Parvati. Let me explain. I saw a review for this book at Richa's blog (City of Books). Richa said she didn't really know what to think of Parvati, which I took to mean that she didn't really like her. So I told myself, I probably won't like this girl. But I wanted to be proven wrong, especially since Parvati's Indian (like me), and I definitely could identify with at least that.
In the beginning, I actually did like her, a lot! For about 60% of the book, I was a fan of her. She and I have some specific things in common: she and I are both Indian (though she's half white, half Indian, and I'm full Indian - trust me, there is A HUGE difference in cultures). She and I both have insanely obsessive over-protective parents (I doubt I'll ever be able to date while still living in my parents' house LOL). And then we're different - she cut her hair, whereas mine is still past my waist (it's a cultural thing for an Indian girl to have her hair kept long). She's blatantly rude and rebellious, whereas I'd like to think that I'm quietly rebellious. She's impulsive, I'm not, but this didn't really bother me. Until the 60% ish point.
Up until about 60% of the book, I liked this girl. I could identify with her, especially on a cultural level.
But then 60% (ish) happened, and I didn't like her anymore. I know, I know, it's harsh of me to just up and hate her after learning about something. That's not quite what happened. I kept reading, because I knew there was some explanation as to why she did what she did (and I knew she hadn't continued doing this "thing" in the present). The author kept hinting at this, hoping readers would still be on Parvati's side. So I waited. And read. And finished the book. And liked her even less.
The thing is, when I read the initial Terrible Thing That Parvati Did, I was like, okay, she's a b**** for keeping this to herself, but it was in the past. Whatever. Then we learn certain things that she did to Max, and I was like O_O Throw in some illegal things towards the end (for those of you who read this book, think "trig book"), and I was done. The first Terrible Thing left a sour taste in my mouth, but the second Terrible Thing and third Terrible Thing, etc. made my blood boil. It kind of killed the mood for me. This is a case where if you hate one of the protagonist, you're probably not going to enjoy the book. For me, I started really disliking her closer to the end, so the story wasn't completely ruined for me.
So I didn't really like the romance either. From the start, I wasn't really buying Max and Parvati's relationship. It didn't seem like sparks were flying (in MY opinion), probably because they were already together, I don't know. There was also the matter of Max's paranoia about someone and Parvati, which killed the romance a bit. Again, in my opinion. But I wasn't reading this book for its romance. It just sucks that the romance wasn't more concrete.
***Possible allusion to a spoiler in the next paragraph***
And for those you who want to tell me that "teens will be teens and do teen things" or whatever, sure. Sure. I get that. That doesn't mean I have to like it (or the person). And I didn't. Maybe I'm not forgiving, but I don't think I could have let Parvati into my life after learning about Thing 1, 2, 3, etc. I've also grown a bit cynical towards high school relationships, so that probably contributes to my eye-rolling at the fact that all is forgiven in the end.
***End possible allusion to a spoiler***
Would I Recommend It:
Yes - because my problems with Parvati could be overlooked by other readers. I'm probably just picky and judgy or something. Or maybe too hard on her because I'd never do those things? It's hard to put yourself in someone else's shoes when that person does such extreme and crazy and cruel and hurtful and irresponsible things. But anyway - yes, I'd recommend this book, as a great whodunit mystery novel. Because I really did think that it was an awesome mystery novel. I couldn't even crack the mystery until it was resolved - and I'm usually one of those that catches on pretty quickly! So, there's that.
3 stars. Good, but not one I'll be re-reading. I'm glad I gave this one a shot - I definitely want to be more open-minded towards genres I don't read often, like mystery!
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