My rating: 4/5 Stars
Publisher: Delacorte Press (May 2014)
Length: 227 pgs
Format: Hardcover, borrowed from my local library
Goodreads Synopsis:A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
I waited impatiently to read this book all summer, aching for the day my library hold would come in. I had heard everyone raving about it everywhere around the book blogging community, yet at the same time no one was talking about it, adamant that to even express their opinions on the book was to spoil it. Having finished it in less than a day, I can attest to the hugely surprising ending and the unexpected twist, but I also think there’s quite a bit that I can tell you without ruining any aspects of the novel.
This is a book about power. This is a book about family. This is a book about inheritance, wealth, capitalism, and entitlement. This is a book about questioning ordinary, everyday evils, and questioning what evils you’re willing to do for a greater good. This is a book about the power of memory and the punishment of grief. This is a book about intent and consequence. This is a book that begs the question of how damaged can children be by dynamics established long before they were born.
E. Lockhart manages to write a haunting story about all of these things in a short novel with a unique prose style, told from the perspective of Cady Sinclair, a seventeen year old granddaughter of as wealthy, WASP-y, old money family who has suffered an accident two years prior and spends the novel trying to piece together her recollection of not just the accident, but of her own family dynamics while sequestered on the Sinclair’s private island. Lockhart’s prose resides on the border between fascinating and infuriating, often comprised of short sentences, fragments of thoughts, repetition, and turns of phrases. While initially I was turned off by the writing style, I came to appreciate how it made Cady’s narration seem very authentic, as she herself is dealing with fragments of memory and incomplete ideas.
I wish the novel had been longer, as there were so many issues about the Sinclair family that the narrative only scratched the surface of. There’s so many things going on in this book, but readers only catch glimpses of them, including characters. There’s multiple generations of Sinclairs living on the island and so many characters who seem like they have interesting back stories, but the short length of the book means that with the exception of the narrator Cady, most of the characters (even the Liars) are quite underdeveloped, ambiguous, and mysterious (which could’ve been done purposely by E. Lockhart, as the entire book has a mysterious feel that keeps readers engaged and filling in the gaps about the family dynamics themselves, just as Cady does).
What I Liked:
- The mystery element, being able to piece things together along with Cady throughout the book
- The plot twist at the ending (didn’t see it coming!)
- The startling and twisted family dynamics that are touched upon throughout
- Unreliable narrator- It’s not blatantly obvious that Cady is one, but I personally think she is, which makes the story all the more fascinating.
What I Didn’t Care For:
- The ambiguity and lack of character development- it got frustratingly vague after a while
- Length- I wish it had been longer and explored some of the characters/issues more
- Sometimes the Liars seemed either to juvenile or too mature for their ages (15)
Overall: This book delivered the plot twists that I expected, and definitely didn’t let me down regarding the mysterious premise. This book stood out against other contemporaries I’ve read and hinted at deeper and more complex issues that I would like to see addressed more in YA. It’s a quick read with a tragic ending and it’s definitely worth adding to your bookshelf for a little something different! Does anyone else see Cady as an unreliable narrator like me? Beware the problem with this book- it’s impossible to really discuss without spoiling!
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