We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Hardcover, 227 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Delacorte Press
Cadence Sinclair Eastman is the first grandchild of the Sinclair family. She is the heiress of the Sinclairs, a family that came over on the Mayflower. The Sinclairs spent their summers on their private island, Beechwood, off the coast of Massachusetts. One summer, “summer fifteen,” ends in a mysterious accident, leaving Cady with elusive migraines, and memory loss. Now, summer seventeen, she is back to Beechwood for the first time since the accident. She is determined to remember what happened to her.
Throughout the novel, Cadence is our thoroughly unreliable narrator, bursting with prejudice, teenage caprice, and gaping holes in her memory. She is the observer in the tale of the Sinclairs, chronicling their greed and dysfunction, often using her own King Lear-esque fairy tales.
Although I enjoyed this book while reading it, when I got to the end I was left unsatisfied. This Amazon and Indigo YA Bestseller did not, in my opinion, stand up the hype. Although the writing style was absolutely beautiful and intriguing, in the end it left me feeling that it was somehow flat, and that the story was ultimately unimpressive and unoriginal. I expected more from this book. It had so much potential. It could have been an amazing story, but many opportunities were left untaken. For example, the characters were quite interesting and there could have been some great development there. However, none of the characters were ever explored in any depth. Their surfaces were barely scratched. I want to know more about the grandfather—his grief, his motivation, his downfall. Anything. I want to know more about the Liars. More than their repeated poetic, yet general, descriptions—Johnny is “bounce, effort and snark,”Mirren is “sugar, curiosity and rain,” Gat is “contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee.” But what else?
I understand that we are only given a glimpse of these characters because we are seeing them through the eyes of Cadence. However, I think that at least by the end I should feel something for them and their fates. But, I feel as if I hardly know them; that their fate is wholly unrelated to me. When I reached the end I thought, Wait, that’s it? That’s all there is? I wanted to know them more, but they still felt like two dimensional strangers. Even the big twist at the end didn’t surprise me as it was meant to. It felt too been-done-before (I’ll avoid spoilers by not going into more detail).
Perhaps I am overthinking it. This is a young adult novel, and not meant to be overly literary. However, with the author’s style and the endless possibilities for this story, I can’t help but be disappointed.
In conclusion, what holds this book up is Lockhart’s phenomenal writing—I loved her style. However, I don’t think she allowed this story to reach its full potential. But, like I said, the writing itself was truly beautiful, lyrical, and original. That is what kept me going. I’d say give this book a shot, but don’t expect to be blown away. Maybe that will allow you to enjoy it more!
Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.