“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. So with the help of his friend Preston and his girlfriend, 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 it. But then Preston never comes home. And the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead to Preston’s body.
Terrifying clues that point to Max as the killer….”
Thoughts on the Novel: Max is a surprisingly sympathetic character in a book filled with rather depressing ones. He is simply a boy looking to find love and belonging after a childhood that would destroy almost anyone. There is a profound vulnerability beneath his tough exterior that reinforces his young age and inexperience as an adult. This vulnerability makes it easy to like Max and forgive him for his childish actions.
Unfortunately, Max is alone in being likable. The rest of the story of Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes includes almost every teen stereotype, something Max also fills but in which a reader’s insight into his thoughts and emotions helps overcome the negative aspects of it. In addition, Max lives very much in an adult versus teen world in which all adults are stupid and therefore deserve the lies being told to them. Meanwhile, teens are much more knowledgeable about life’s truly important things and therefore are the more trustworthy of the two factions. It does not help that the adults in the novel do fall into every adult parent stereotype, from the massively overbearing to the neglectful.
In fact, the adult-teen dichotomy does not just provide motive for Max to forge his own path and start his own investigation into Preston’s disappearance. This us-versus-them mentality fills the book and negatively distracts readers from Max’s growing problems. While the subsequent lessons Max learns about adults, of which he is now one since the book occurs on and after his eighteenth birthday, provide readers with a more palatable working relationship between the two sides, it is unfortunately too late to mend the damage done by such forceful demonstrations of it.
All of this negativity and lack of understanding or respect by both sides towards the other drives a reader’s focus away from the mystery. This is unfortunate as the mystery is quite intriguing. There is obviously more going on than Max initially understands, and every discovery of his leads to more questions. This makes for a fast-paced story that twists and turns, albeit somewhat predictably.
Liars, Inc. is a twisty, nerve-wracking story that becomes a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks a little white lie is harmless. Unfortunately, it also subscribes to the idea that parents and teenagers have opposing aims and therefore can never get along. While the story is interesting and suspenseful, the fact that the entire premise of Max’s and his friends’ big idea is to make money from directly defying an adult’s authority is bothersome, particularly so for adult readers. For this reason, Liars, Inc. is probably best left for its target audience, although it could potentially create a great discussion between a parent and his or her teen.