Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Micah is a liar.

But she's promised to tell the truth.

Her (secret) boyfriend was brutally murdered, and everyone is looking at her like she had something to do with it.

She didn't.

You can trust her.

Liar by Justine Larbarlestier
Coming in October 2009
Recommended For: High School


Um...WOWzers. This book was amazing! I picked up an ARC of Justine Larbalestier's Liar from the Bloomsbury booth at BEA back in May, after reading Carlie's review over at Librarilly Blonde, and I'm sure glad I did.

When I think of Justine Larbalestier, I think fairies, not psychological thrillers. Liar is so cleverly written that you don't realize what you're reading until you're halfway into the book, and then your mind is pounding and spinning you can't put the book down because if you do then you risk losing your total absorption and disbelief.

I don't want to say any more about the story though. I want you to read it for yourself. What I don't mind starting a conversation about is the cover. As you may have seen elsewhere on the interwebs, there's a bit of a controversy over the American cover* of Liar (shown at the top of this post). The cover itself is really eye catching. The dark, blunt bangs against the pale skin, wide eyes and covered mouth of the model definitely pique the reader's interest. So what's the problem?

Micah's character is black. Within the first few pages she describes herself as being of mixed race, but looking and having more the skin tone of her black father than her white mother. And she keeps her hair really short, cropped close to her head. She passes for being a boy.

So what's up with the cover? Is it racism? Did the publishers not want to put a black girl on the cover for fear of not selling enough books to their white customers? Or is the cover supposed to be what Micah really looks like, and her description in the book is just another of her lies? Or is it just that the cover was so awesome, the publisher decided they just had to go with it, content of the novel be damned.

What do you think?
* I personally like the Australian cover better.


  1. Isn't that what happened with Whale Talk? The main character was Asian/African-American and the cover depicted a white guy running. Silly publishers.

  2. Kristi(e)'s right, if you interpret the cover of Whale Talk as showing T.J. - which would make sense because he's the narrator. But the teen boy shown on the cover is also wearing a letter jacket, which T.J. would never do. So another interpretation (I think someone in our YA class pointed this out, I hadn't thought of it) is that the boy on the cover is actually supposed to be Chris, one of the swim team misfits. That would match the picture but...why would a minor character be on the cover?

    Here's the cover in question, for reference:

    Alicia, I think the idea of the cover of Liar being external-to-the-text metatext is awesome! but I don't think most people tend to think that most people would think that much.

  3. I am one of the people who was sold on the American cover--seriously, I loved it, and loved the plot of the book, but that cover was so beautiful that I planned on buying the hard cover just for the cover art.

    Now I look at it and am sick to my stomach.

    Thing is, they could have made that cover with an African American girl. I liked the concept of a book about a liar with the girl's mouth covered--I thought THAT was clever. They could just as easily had the SAME concept with a black girl.

    I base my idea of what the character looks like on what the cover art shows. That cover is false advertising.

  4. Meanwhile black teens (who do actually read, you know?) will walk past the book not knowing that the main character is also black. Why does everyone in publishing (book and magazine) continue to defer to white racists?

  5. It's a good book with a racially insensitive cover that the author admits she doesn't like.

    Looking at Bloomsbury's homogenous line up on their website confirms that the publisher's recent attempts to "spin" the cover in light of negative backlash is a cya moment.

    Is this not 2009? If a Black girl on the cover won't sell the book - why not use the Australian cover instead. Apparently you have to buy books overseas to get a reasonable cover. Here in the US - Bloomsbury has declared only white covers need apply (regardless of what is inside.)

    I agree with Editorial Anonymous. Just buy the Australian copy and ignore the USA edition. Maybe then the publisher will get a clue.

  6. JFYI, and I realize this is semi-off-topic: being of mixed race means people should refer to you as biracial, (triracial,) or multiracial, unless you specifically identify one racial group with which you want to identify. Easy example: President Obama is biracial, but he identifies as African-American/black, and that's what we should call him when asked about his race. Otherwise, it perpetuates the One-Drop Rule that we must fit into a single 'category' for other people's comfort. Micah is biracial, afaik, not black, regardless of what she looks like.

    As to the cover, I can't condone that type of racist crap. I'm going to buy the Australian version. Here's hoping it outsells the American version 4 to 1. Thanks for blogging about this.

  7. folklorefanatic: Definitely. JL refers to Micah as black, and in the book Micah seems to identify as black, so I think that referring to her as 'black' is warranted.