This is an intense and gripping novel that seems to take its cue from the recent ‘domestic noir trend’ in adult fiction. Like many contemporary novels in that genre, Little Liar features a manipulative and morally ambiguous female protagonist who is by her own admission an unreliable narrator and who spends the novel scheming to disrupt the seemingly stable upper middle-class institutions with which she interacts.
Seventeen-year-old Nora first causes chaos in her posh Catholic school by dating a teacher and deliberately getting him fired. She subsequently befriends the charming and privileged Bel only to attempt to usurp her position in her family and career prospects. However, it gradually becomes apparent that Nora is not as skilled a manipulator as she would have the reader (and herself) believe, as her lies come back to haunt her along with her suppressed memories of a family tragedy.
The central relationship works well, as the theatrical and emotionally volatile Bel is the perfect foil for Nora’s careful and methodical demeanor. With Nora, Gray has created an intriguing protagonist who gets you (the reader) on her side early and keeps you there for all of the novel’s 376 pages. Her motivations remain murky throughout, with the reader left to read between the lines of her self-fashioning narration. The novel as a whole is a well-structured and compelling read, even if it is relatively light as a thriller compared to its adult-targeted counterparts.