Monday, March 23, 2015

Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes (Review)

Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery
Publication.Date  March 24th 2015
Published By:  Harper Teen
AuthorPaula Stokes

Liars, Inc. on Goodreads
My review copy:Received from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:,%201

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.


It's a shitty feeling when you realize the two people you trusted most in the world are liars.
I don't make to-do lists, but if I did, today's would have gone something like this: 1. get drunk, 2. get laid, 3. go surfing (not necessarily in that order). Noticeably absent from the list: get arrested.

     Paula Stokes' latest literary endeavor is an expertly plotted, thoroughly engrossing, devilishly convoluted, clever and truly surprising YA thriller / mystery for the more mature crowd (older teens and adults). This book falls somewhere between Gretchen McNeil's thrillers and Gillian Flynn's mind-benders. It's intelligent and intense, and thanks to Stokes quality writing style, it makes other YA thrillers look rather silly and far-fetched by comparison

      Max, Preston and Parvati are close friends. Max isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, (and by that I mean, he can be easily influenced and blind to things that are right in front of him) but he's street-smart and knows what to do to get by. One day, in order to get detention (to hang out with his girlfriend, Parvati), he takes the blame for something he didn't do. The other person is grateful enough to pay him for the favor. Everyone's happy. This is how he and his friends come up with Liars, Inc. They offer certain "services" for money, such as forging parental signatures, etc. Finally, when Preston needs a cover story to meet his online girlfriend, Max agrees to a pretend camping trip. But when Preston doesn't come back from his randez vous, and Max discovers his blood-covered phone in the trunk of his car, the situation quickly spins completely out of control. And with the discovery of Press' burned body, it only gets worse. 

     Liars, Inc is a well thought out and sophisticated thriller. I was hooked after the first few chapters. Max often comes across as completely clueless - or too trusting, if you will - but I wasn't frustrated with him at all. I actually sympathized with him and felt bad for him. He was a relatable, well fleshed out character, with an interesting backstory and some seriously heavy emotional baggage to drag along. And yet here he was, getting screwed over again. It felt really unfair, and I wanted him to fight back. 

     Stokes is a very eclectic writer. So far, she committed a lushly imagined YA historical fiction series (under a pen name) and a heart warming YA contemporary romance (Art of Lainey). Both of which are great and worth reading, but Liars, Inc. is - in my opinion - her best book to date. The blend of mystery and drama, combined with relatable and honest voice of the main character (Max), makes for a very convincing and emotionally engaging read. It's not a fast-paced, heart pounding kind of read, it's more of a slow-building, meticulously woven web of lies and deception with a completely jaw-dropping final reveal that you kind of see coming, but it still knocks you out good, because there's just no way you could have ever expected it. I really hope Paula Stokes sticks to writing thrillers and mysteries (and not only teen but hopefully adult ones too). Liars, Inc. is complex, but also amazingly effortlessly put together, and I think the author feels at home in this genre. 

     Liars, Inc. is compelling and entertaining, but also quite thought provoking. It makes you wonder about things. Like, do we ever truly know the people around us? Can we tell who is lying and who is telling the truth? How well do we know our neighbors, friends from school, colleagues? Do we know what dark secrets they're hiding? What they're capable of? It's really the scariest part of this book, if you think about it. Paula Stokes did a fabulous job playing up our most basic fears. I can't wait for her next book!

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