“We Were Liars” is the story of Cadence Sinclair, the oldest granddaughter of the Sinclair West Coast, rich white people dynasty (think the Kennedys), but all is not as wonderful as it ought to be. The story revolves around the summers that the extended Sinclair family spend on their private island and the Liars – the three oldest Sinclair grandchildren and Gat, the foreign outsider.
It’s a book about a girl and a boy. A girl and her family. A girl and her rich family. A girl and her migraines. A girl and all the messed-up things that can happen to you. And most of it is written like this.
Now, I actually like “choppy” writing styles that can read almost like poetry if done right. Each short, cut-off sentence can emphasize the author’s message and give a lyrical air to what happens to a book’s characters and world. I didn’t mind the very choppy style of “We were Liars”, but I didn’t really appreciate it either – it felt mostly out of place and overdone, not really suitable in the context and especially the myriad descriptions of Cadence’s migraines are really too much. And I get migraines, so I know how bad they are – but there are limits to how lyrical you can get about it, honestly…
My full name is Cadence Sinclair Eastman.
I am nearly eighteen.
I used to be blond, but now my hair is black.
I used to be strong, but now I am weak.
I used to be pretty, but now I look sick.
It is true I suffer migraines since my accident.
It is true I do not suffer fools.
Anyway, on to the story. Something has happened on the island. Something that is frightening and worrying and mysterious, and while Cadence struggles with lyrical migraines and her love for Gat’s Heathcliff character, we try to figure out what really happened the previous summer.
And I can’t tell you what that is. Because this is one of those books that are actually best the less you know about it. Suffice to say that in my humble opinion, this book has gained its following because of the secret of what really happened, the adequate building of suspense and the twist at the end.
Now, I love a good twist – they can make a book shoot from a three-star to a five-star with just the right amount of “what the heck just happened” or “No way!” endings in my world. So, it’s great, that “We Were Liars” has that kind of ending. Unfortunately, I guessed it about halfway through the book… Which meant that after that point, I was more free to focus directly on the “in-between” story, and there just wasn’t enough there to warrant all the long-winding internal and external dialogue and the quite repetitive portrayal of the messed-up dynamics of a family with nothing but #whitepeopleproblems.
I get that Lockhart was likely attempting to showcase exactly how twisted your values can become when you are part of that kind of family, but when your main protagonist tries to deal with it by mostly being acting as a spoiled and entitled rebel without a cause, it just falls flat.
I didn’t care for Cadence and saw her and the Liars’ attempts at liberating themselves from the family as childish and insincere – and this became all the more apparent when the truth of the last summer is finally revealed.
In the end, I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads – which might seem strange, as I’ve mostly been pointing out all the things it did poorly – but that has a lot to do with what I like. And the fact that non-supernatural YA will likely never be my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I have read and adore several “pure” YA books, but I’m finding more and more that YA stories and characters like the ones in “We Were Liars” – without any monsters or elves to spice things up – rarely manage to raise above “fine” for me. I guess I honestly just don’t care all that much…
So, I was a bit wary about this book, but as always, though, I am willing to try anything (especially books) at least once, so when I could no longer ignore the clamoring about “We Were Liars”, I decided to give it a whirl despite the non-supernatural YA stamp on the cover.
And it wasn’t for me. But if you love stories of troubled teenage love, the rich and not so well-adjusted, and a minor mystery with a twist, then I think you will love “We Were Liars”.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart; published in May 2014 by Delacorte Press