Liar, Liar by Gary Paulsen was my first read for the 6th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge. It's a perfect read for reluctant middle school readers, especially boys. Paulsen writes in a light, irreverent tone, but touches on important issues about families, friendship, responsibility, and communication.
Eighth grader Kevin is a chronic liar. He lies to make other people feel good about themselves, and to make his own life run more smoothly. He sometimes lies to teach people lessons that he thinks they need to learn. But when his lies get out of control, Kevin has to take drastic action to fix things.
Kevin is a little bit over the top, but very likeable. You can picture him as a TV character. He's ridiculously bright, and quite effective when he puts his mind to something. He just doesn't necessarily choose to focus his efforts on the right things. So we have him constructing a battle strategy to convince the object of his affection that he'd be a good boyfriend, and deliberately baiting his hypochondriac best friend. He is funny, capable, and charming. He's got a great voice. Like this:
"I flinched. Katie has one of those bossy yet whiny voices that make you want to stab pencils in your eardrums to make the noise stop. I turned and broke out a killer smile. I can always tell when it's time to crank up the charisma." (Page 8)
"Obviously, the best approach to landing Tina as my girlfriend would be to study the way generals plan military maneuvers. I would utilize foresight, bravery, skill, careful timing, reconnaissance missions and the support of staunch allies to show her that I was the best possible boyfriend for her." (Page 23-24)
Yes, Kevin does have quite a strong vocabulary. He explains this by mentioning that his mother works in a bookstore, and is constantly bringing her work home. There's even a scene in which the mother reads aloud to her teens - I LOVE that.
Although Liar, Liar is a thin book, and a quick read (it only took me about an hour), it seems to me to be more a middle school book than an elementary school book. There is reference to "stuff that marks the moment a male's physical maturation begins" and being "glad to be carrying a math book" (Page 17). Kevin is suddenly, hormonally crazy about a girl. He wants to go to a rock concert, and he envies his older brother's learner's permit. He is, in short, "stuck in that yawning chasm of nothingness, middle school" (Page 28). I think that other kids in the same boat will be able to relate.
Kevin learns a lesson in Liar, Liar, but the book doesn't feel in the least bit didactic. Kevin's interactions with his family, friends, and teachers are genuine at their core, but overlaid with humor. Although the immediate crises are resolved, I closed the book wanting more. There's a bit of Tom Sawyer to Kevin, and I wonder what his further adventures will be.
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: March 8, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).