Review: The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roeckers

Prep School Intrigue!

Only one element needs hacking

Verdict: Super-fun yet implausible prep school murder mystery involving secret societies (shhh!). And there’s a sequel!

Perfect for: Fans of Pretty Little Liars, fans of mysteries, and fans of The Secret History who don’t mind their entertainment less intellectual and more fun and brisk.

Summary (mostly from the back cover): Kate Lowry’s best friend Grace died a year ago. So when she gets an email from her asking for help to expose the truth, Kate’s more than a little confused. Now Kate has no choice but to prove once and for all that Grace’s death was more than just a tragic accident. She teams up with a couple of knights-in-(not-so)-shining armor – the dangerously hot bad boy, Liam, and her love-struck neighbor, Seth. But at their elite private school, Pemberly Brown*, there are secrets so bit people will do anything to protect them – even if it means getting rid of anyone trying to solve a murder… Not from back cover: DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN!!!

*nice Pride and Prejudice nod, eh?

On to the ratings hack-down:

 Fun Mystery!

Look: mysteries, when done well are just fun to read. What better way to make you turn the page than a well-paced, intriguing murder mystery, and Liar Society is just that. We, along with narrator Kate, want to know what happened to Grace…and why. Kate continues to receive cryptic emails from Grace’s account throughout the story, and begins to uncover some clues on her own, and with the help of Seth and Liam. These clues and emails are perfectly placed to propel the story along. And as a bonus, this mystery is enhanced by…

 Super-secret Secret-society Shenanigans!

Secret invitations! Secret seals! Secret rituals! Secret buildings! Weird prep-school traditions! Some of which take place at night! It’s kinda like Hogwarts, but no magic! A lot of it is pretty implausible, but all of it is fun. And key to the mystery solving process turns out to be Arcane School History…which is researched by our narrator Kate using…

 omg totes accurate use of technology by teens!!1!

OK, so, throughout her investigation, Kate uses Google to help her learn about the shadowy history of Pemberly Brown and some of the people associated with it. And most of the time this strategy is effective: as Kate puts it “God bless the interwebs”. But what I loved is that she actually had to use Google strategically – like, she didn’t just type her query and magically get all the answers. Sometimes she got too many results and had to alter her search terms and try different key words. Too often mystery books and movies (for teens and adults) make it seem like computers and the Internet are like a Magic 8 Ball or something. Anyway, the other realistic thing about Kate’s investigation is that she couldn’t find everything she needed online, so she had to go to both her school and public library “as a last resort”. And yeah, searching there was way more annoying and difficult, but she found some info hidden in archives and on microfiche (!!) that she couldn’t have found anywhere else. Truth! Kate and her friends also used texting and email in a realistic, modern teen way which believe it or not doesn’t always happen in YA lit – too many adult writers draw from their cell phone deprived childhoods when they write YA. Also realistic were the…

Awkward, Frustrating, Scary Romance Bits

Early on there is a flashback (before Grace’s tragedy) to Kate’s freshman year where she attends a summer bonfire. She is obsessed with older popular boy Bradley, who she bumps into a couple of times over the course of the evening. Kate is quite realistically and endearingly awkward, yet takes advantage of an opportunity to spend time with him instead of running away out of low self-esteem, as far to many YA girls seem to do. Later in the book (with the investigation in full swing), she begins to consider “dangerously hot bad boy” Liam as a dating prospect, but in addition to all the butterflies and doubts that all teens have about getting involved with someone they don’t know all that well, there is the added complication that anyone at Pemberly Brown could have been involved with Grace’s death. Falling in love is scary, and all the paranoia that Kate feels about the investigation makes her halting flirtation with Liam all that more realistic.

Less realistic, however, were the….

 Not Quite There Characters

You know you are not in for in-depth characters when the back of the book description includes the phrase “dangerously hot bad boy” to describe one of the characters (Liam) because that is exactly what you will get. Then there is Maddie, the classic fat girl turned into a popular bitch; Taylor, who is actually described as a “queen bee”; various preppy jock guys; absentee parents with no discernible qualities (a LitHacker pet peeve); and last but worst, our narrator who has pink hair…and what else? Hard to tell. Sometimes Kate seems preoccupied with being popular and the latest fashions, sometimes she seems to embrace being alternative. Sometime she seems diet-conscious, other times she seems proud to be a full-fat mochachino addict. Other than her love and grief for her friend Grace and her maybe-hots for “dangerously hot bad boy” Liam, it is hard to get a sense of who she is. The best-described character is Kate’s lovelorn nerdboy next door neighbor Seth, who has bright red curly hair,  is into conspiracy theories and carries around an endless and amusing array of snacks (dill pickles, sandwiches, cheetos) in a futile attempt to bulk up. Speaking of bulking up…

My only hack (but it’s a biggie) would be to bulk up some of the characters, even just a little. The book zips along nicely, so no need to bog it down with lengthy descriptions, but if all the characters had the treatment Seth gets, it would be an even better book. It would also be cool to have the characters bounce off each other a little more. At one point, Seth and Liam both start helping Kate with her investigation, but prior to this, the boys didn’t know each other. There is practically no interaction or dialogue between them, but I think there is a great opportunity for some hilarious repartee between the “dangerously hot bad boy” and the obsessive nerd.

Maybe I will see more character development in the sequel, The Lies That Bind. Which I definitely will be reading!

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One thought on “Review: The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roeckers

  1. Pingback: Sophomore Slumps vs Sophomore Bumps: When a sequel disappoints…or surprises | LitHacker

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