Book Reviews

Review: The Liars of Mariposa Island by Jennifer Mathieu

The Liars of Mariposa Island is one of those books that makes you examine the power of words. It is an emotional story that asks us what we are willing to sacrifice for our family, and when is enough, enough?


Mariposa Island. That’s when Elena Finney gets to escape her unstable, controlling mother by babysitting for their two children. And the summer of 1986 promises to be extra special when she meets J.C., the new boy in town, whose kisses make Elena feel like she’s been transported to a new world.

Joaquin Finney can’t imagine why anyone would want to come to Mariposa Island. He just graduated from high school and dreams about going to California to find his father and escape his mother’s manipulation.

The Liars of Mariposa Island follows siblings Elena and Joaquin, with flashbacks to their mother’s experience as a teenage refugee fleeing the Cuban revolution.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

The Liars of Mariposa Island is a story about summer, freedom, parties and boys. Narrated from the perspective of a girl and her older brother, The Liars of Mariposa Island is a story that revolves around family. It features a relationship between the main character, who is 16, and an older teen, 19 years of age. A book that is stewing with secrets, lies, and proving there’s a bit of a liar in us all. We are asked what we will do to continue our lies, to protect ourselves, and our family.

But what drew me to The Liars of Mariposa Island were the exploration of truth and lies, the memories of Elena’s mother as a refugee from Cuba, and the question of whether we have the strength to break free of our family’s hold. Throughout the book we witness scenes of Elena’s mother as she flees Cuba, assimilates to life in the US, and her own vulnerabilities, fears, and lies. Every character in this book is a liar. Whether that be a white lie, Mathieu explores their motivations and fears.

Whether we use a relationship to give us the courage to break the rules, in many ways The Liars of Mariposa Island examines our characters as they are searching for a new beginning. It was hard for me to watch Elena’s relationship unfold, only because I’ve been there – with an older boyfriend who doesn’t treat me right and wondering if I have the courage to break free of that orbit. Then again I could empathize with Joaquin’s desires to leave his small town, to want to break free and start new. All while I was transfixed by their mother’s story from being a girl herself to the present.


Unfortunately, a place where The Liars of Mariposa Island fell short for me was in the ending. I appreciated that half of the book is narrated from Elena’s perspective and the other half Joaquin’s (besides the chapters from their mother), but I didn’t feel much resolution from the ending. I wasn’t expecting there to be a very happy ending, because the book is a full of family drama and tension, but I was looking for more closure.


There are a fair share of twists, turns, and revelations. And what The Liars of Mariposa Island shows is that we are all liars in some way. I could empathize with the character’s struggles, their desires, and their fears. It’s like when you have that feeling that we aren’t living the live we should be, that somewhere along the way we went astray. What happens to us when our lies come crashing down? Like a tidal wave will it pull us in, or will we have the strength to break the surface?

Find The Liars of Mariposa Island on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository


Who is your favorite character who is a major liar?

Share this post

2 thoughts on “Review: The Liars of Mariposa Island by Jennifer Mathieu

  1. I was intrigued by this one but I realized early on that I was hoping for a book in the vein of Moxie and this one is truer to Mathieu’s other novels in tone and execution. I haven’t read it yet but the story reminds me a lot of Barely Missing Everything by Matt Mendez which I’m planning to check out soon and hoping will maybe gel better than this one did.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.