From the Publisher
Author: James, Brian
\\\\\\\\James, Brian. Dirty Liar. Feb. 2006. 286p. Scholastic/Push, $16.99 (0-439-79623-7).
Gr. 912. Benji (also known as Dogboy) has a compelling story. It is written in hard, first-person language, and there is fear and drugs and cursing and more fear, but it is also deeply poetic. Benji has moved from his alcoholic mother's trailerbut more important away from her abusive boyfriendto live with his distant and controlling father and his wife. Benji, who keeps a journal to try to name and define his demons, calls both his former girlfriend and Rianna, the new girl he clings to, his angels. He hopes that somehow, in some way, they will save him. Benji has to save himself, but it is the open and gentle persistence of his stepmother, and the realization that Rianna, too, has demons to fight, that allow him to do so. Powerful, compelling, and, in the end, almost sweet. GraceAnne A. DeCandido
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Benji moves in with his emotionally distant father and well-meaning stepmother, Janet, to escape his alcoholic mother's boyfriend's sexual abuse. Unfortunately, he can't escape his demons. He spends his days at his Oregon high school scribbling his misery in notebooks and getting stoned with other misfits. His only hopeful thoughts are of Lacie, the troubled girl he left behind. These feelings become conflicted when he is attracted to Rianna, a popular girl from a poor family who works hard to achieve the goals set by her parents. Benji's inner turmoil, though authentic to his situation, grows tiresome, and the plot becomes mired in overwritten self-flagellation. James's female characters shine; Rianna and Lacie are both sharply drawn in relatively few strokes. Earnest, levelheaded Janet is the unlikely heroine, and her gentle absolution when Benji confesses his abuse defies centuries of stepmother stereotyping. This poignant climactic scene is masterfully written and points the story smoothly to its satisfying, uplifting conclusion. Unfortunately, the narrative's lulling pace and somber mood may put teens off before they reach these triumphant last pages. Though less subtle than Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson's Target (Millbrook, 2003), James's portrait of male post-rape depression is heartbreaking and believable.-Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Benji has traveled a long way physically, but not emotionally, from his abusive mother to start a new life with his father in a small town west of Portland. Apparently, although introduced as a character in a previous book, Benji's story is intended to stand alone with a few vague references to events in Perfect World (2004). On a melodramatically emotional roller coaster, Benji can fall in love one day and become furious with the whole world the next, forgetting promises and his new flame in his anger. School, finding friends, coping with a new stepmother and a half sister with tons of questions are expected challenges against which he seems to have decided to use smoking dope, cursing and hiding from the world as coping strategies. Guilt and pain from the abuse of the past keep Benji on edge and make it hard for him to trust. Gradually, however, it becomes obvious to him that not everyone is out to get him and that some people can be trusted to care and listen. You've heard of drama queens, but Benji seems to be auditioning for the Jerry Springer show most of the time, and it's hard to care. Overdone. (Fiction. YA)