Monday, June 29, 2009

Dirty Liar Review

I saw this book in someone's Hardcover vs. Paperback post and somehow I knew I was meant to read it.

When I see Push books I know that they will be an edgy and raw read. I also think about how I lost some Push contest I entered when I was a senior in high school. Haha. Still bitter.

Dirty Liar by Brian James


Dirty Liar is the story of Benji, better known as Dogboy, and he prefers that name. Benji is a guy he doesn't really want to know. Dogboy is a cloak he can hide behind, just like his nondescript jeans and long hair. He leads a fairly normal life with a couple of buds he gets high with after school, a long-distance girlfriend and a new step-family to get used to. Nobody knows why Benji chose to leave his mother and his former life. If Benji has anything to do it nobody is ever going to know all of the dark secrets he keeps hidden inside of him.

The first thing you'll notice about this book is the unusual structure. Instead of quotation marks for dialogue James uses dashes and italics. He also has a tendency to connect sentences through ellipses. I'm not sure what the point of this is. In fact, it's probably one of the reason that I haven't really read one of his books before even though I've probably picked up all of them to look at while I was the library. But don't let that turn you off. It's a simple thing to get used to. Everything reads just like the usual structure for a novel. The only large drawback to this style is that it makes reading the narrative very slow. When you see a lot of sentences..connected like slows down the words in your can be slightly frustrating..but at the same time it really gives you a sense of Benji's state of mind.

The actual writing is poetic, raw and riveting. I felt so connected to Benji, so much so that I had to look away sometimes. Benji is a smart guy and I really enjoyed reading about his theories about people and behavior and why things are the way they are in his life. To me, his pain and bad feelings never felt forced or melodramatic or contrived. You get glimpses into Benji's life with his mother, a life of neglect from his mother and abuse from his mother's boyfriend Roy. These glimpses don't tell the full story but they allow you to fully understand the dept of Benji's suffering.

Benji's depression isn't easy to read. The novel doesn't have a lot of action so you spend a lot of time in Benji's head as he writes in his journal, lays in his bed, gets high or just fights against all the demons pushing in on him. However, the writing is so vibrant that it makes up for the lack of physicality on the page. What really brings this novel together is the undercurrent of hope that runs throughout and then comes rushing at you in the end. Benji has a girlfriend back where his mom lives who loves him and then there's a new girl in his life at his new school. The moments where Benji is fresh and flush from all these new feelings are times when I wanted to stand up and cheer for him. The ending brings this all together and I didn't find it rushed. The climax was well-plotted. Benji faces a lot of fear and confusion as does the rest of his family. They don't handle this perfectly but in the end it is clear that everything is coming together so that everyone can move forward. I really enjoyed reading that.

This is a dark, gritty but beautifully controlled and written book. I recommend it if you're looking for a different kind of book about an outcast who thinks he's given everyone permission to write him off but he actually hasn't. This is one book that takes a teenager's depression as seriously as they do. A very inspiring read for me, personally. I'm glad that I chose this one. Check it out!

I'm not quite sure why they chose Dirty Liar for the title though. I mean, I can see it but to me, it's a stretch.

Also, Dirty Liar is a companion novel to Perfect World. It's probably better to read Perfect World first, actually. I'll have to check that book out of the library soon.

Okay, now I have to write 1500 words in an hour. I joined the DFTBAuthors Writing Challenge and committed to 1500 words a day for a week. D'oh!


  1. Nice review. I've never heard of this book, but I think I'm going to have to pick it up sometime.


  2. Hi Summer,

    Sorry to hijack your thread but I couldn't find your email addy. It's July so that means that the Complete Your Draft contest is officially over. How did you do? Great I hope! We'd appreciate it if you could head over to Anne Marie's LJ and read the post on the final check in and how you can claim your prize!

    Thank you for participating. We hope to see you next year!


  3. Summer,

    When I posted my review of Beautiful Americans you mentioned that you wanted to read the book. I wanted to let you know that I am giving it away this month in case you wanted to enter to win:

  4. Summer, You won the copy of Beautiful Americans from my site. Please email me at with your address.

  5. Hey-

    I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to write this review. I think you got exactly what I was aiming for. It's always nice when someone "gets" it.

    As for the style and slowing down...that's kind of my intent. I want the reader to spend time with it. As a writer, I've been greatly influenced by stylistic writers that value language and voice as much if not more than plot.

    As for the's meaning comes from his view of himself.

    Brian James

  6. hey wat happens in the end?