Published by HarperTeen on March 24th, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
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.
Mysteries and thrillers usually aren’t my thing. I won’t lie to you about that. No, the reason why I picked up Liars, Inc. is simply because of the author. Paula Stokes is amazing and wonderful and so so friendly, and I just adored The Art of Lainey, so in spite of this book being a little out of my comfort zone, I had to have it. Well, I regret nothing – because I really enjoyed this book!
Liars, Inc. is a murder mystery. I don’t feel like I’m spoiling it – because it’s in the blurb – but Max’s best friend, Preston, disappears and later turns up dead, and all the evidence points to Max as the one who’s done it. It’s a whodunnit and whydidtheydoit, and honestly, it’s really compelling. There are so many lies and hidden motives, which really keep you guessing. I had 10 different running theories and I still didn’t get it all figured out before the end. At one point I thought I did, but then there was a final plot twist that completely took me by surprise. By the last couple of chapters, I was on the edge of my seat, turning the pages as fast as I could, which means it’s a mystery done well.
Though I didn’t have the whole thing figured out by the end, and there were some twists and elements to the mystery that surprised me, I never really truly felt afraid. And it’s weird to say that I was hoping to be? But yeah, though the stakes are certainly high at the climax, I never really feared for Max’s life. I guess I was lacking some kind of suspense (which certainly wasn’t helped by knowing Preston would turn up dead from the synopsis, but this not becoming apparent until about halfway through the book). Now, I don’t read books from this genre often, so it might not really be fair for me to say it, but it is what it is. Instead of the usual romantic feels (because, yeah, I didn’t really care much for Max and Parvati), I wanted the frightening feels, but didn’t really get them – perhaps because the bad guy’s psychopathic nature just wasn’t “in your face” enough.
Where Paula Stokes really succeeds though, like she always does, is in her characters. Honestly, I was impressed by how large a role characterization played in a mystery/thriller book – because it’s not really something you would ordinarily expect. But within this mystery that kept me on my toes, there was a heaping scoop of meaningful diversity – from ethnic diversity (Parvati), to social class, to familial structures… I particularly loved the adoption aspect which challenged me to think about something completely unfamiliar to me. How does living in a group home, then suddenly having “new parents” affect you? It made Max so much more human to know what he was struggling with there, and I loved how his family truly is a family in spite of not actually being related. (Honestly, Max and his little sister were too adorbs for words.) And, incidentally, I think Stokes wrote excellently and believably from a teenage guy’s POV.
There’s also a lot of character growth that makes these characters jump off the page and feel so much more real. Max starts out with a complete distrust of authority figures. He makes some mistakes, sure, in holding back information, but he’s desperate to clear his name and obviously makes certain rash decisions out of fear. But he learns from this, and gradually he understands that he is in over his head and needs help. I love that because it really stands up to certain YA clichés, where the authority figures are always absent, and the characters are stubborn and withdrawn for seemingly no reason. There are clear reasons for everything Max, Parvati, and Preston do and how little they trust other people, and they learn and grow from this as the story progresses.