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.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
We Were Liars is one of those unassuming little books that delivers quite a punch, a punch that takes you unawares. I enjoyed the premise of We Were Liars. This idyll that E. Lockhart describes seems on the surface to be like a classic fairy tale: “The island is ours. Here, in some way, we are young forever.”
But don’t be lulled into a sense of tranquillity. This novel is built upon layer upon layer of false impressions, and a myriad of lies. Secrets abound in this novel, and these secrets thrive on a breeding ground of sibling greed and jealousy. The final reveal is such an unexpected twist, a tragedy that I just didn’t see it coming. This is the shock factor that works so well.
E. Lockhart tells the story of We Were Liars through the eyes of the main protagonist, Cadence Sinclair Eastman, the female heir to the wealth of the Sinclair family.
Cadence has a terrible accident whilst out swimming alone on the family island off the coast of Massachusetts when she is fifteen. This terrible turn of events leaves her at the present age of nearly eighteen, with a changed personality, memory loss, and crucifying, crippling, headaches.
“WELCOME TO MY skull. A truck is rolling over the bones of my neck and head. The vertebrae break, the brains pop and ooze. A thousand flashlights shine in my eyes.”
Nobody will tell her how this accident happened, even though it is obvious that they all know. But are they protecting her, or excluding her? Cadence is diagnosed with post traumatic headaches, but what happened? The final revelation is shocking, desperately sad, and devastating.
The unusual way in which E. Lockhart writes is unassuming and original, even quite literary for a YA novel. Cadence’s emotions are so volatile that E. Lockhart creates a very visual image of Cadence as she “bleeds.”
Bleeding Heart by Zindy: http://zindy.deviantart.com/
The novel begins with her father deserting her, leaving her mother for another woman:
“Blood gushed rhythmically from my open wound, then from my eye, my ear, my mouth. It tasted like salt and failure. the bright red shame of being unloved soaked the grass in front of our house, the bricks of the path, the steps to the porch. ”
At times she is so distressed by loss that bleeding is not sufficient, so she dissolves:
“My head and shoulders melted first, followed by my hips and knees. Before long I was a puddle, soaking into the pretty cotton prints.”
I enjoyed how E. Lockhart played with classic fairy tale retellings which she cleverly re-wrote, revealing that this “fairy tale” is far from idyllic, in fact it is a tale of destruction, and woe.
The characters in We Were Liars are flawed by their own inadequacies, brought upon themselves by greed, and deep-seated prejudices. They are not a very appealing group of people, this applies to both the older and the younger generation: the aunts are totally dependent on Granddad. Gat, the outsider, is the only person with a political conscience. It is suggested by Cadence’s association with him that she seeks to be a “better” person too, but her flawed character, and blood association with her dysfunctional family means that ultimately her decisions will be flawed.
The four ‘Liars” are:
Mirren, “she is sugar and curiosity, and rain.”
Johnny, “he is bounce, effort and snark.”
Gat, “he is contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee.”
“He was a stranger in our family, even after all those years.”
Cadence is drawn to Gat and loves him, but she is jealous that Gat might not love her back: “Our kiss was electric and soft, and tentative and certain, terrifying and exactly right.”
Cadence: Mirren, Johnny and Gat are introduced in the present tense, whereas Cadence is introduced in the past: “I used to be pretty, but now I am sick.” Cadence “used to be,” a lot of things, but now it is implied that she has none of these characteristics any more, her character has changed. She is so distressed that at anxious moments she feels like she is dissolving.
E. Lockhart uses short snappy sentences, and opposites, to convey a wealth of information.
Grandad may appear at first glance to be a sad old man who has just lost his wife:
“Summer fifteen on Beechwood, Granny Tipper was gone. Clairmont felt empty.”
But again this is an illusion, Grandad is not quite what he seems, and neither is supposedly charitable Granny Tipper.
Silence is the way that the Sinclair’s deal with loss and death. “Silence is a protective coating over pain.” Gat is the only one that dares to break this silence.
There is steeliness to Grandad that is shocking too. He expects certain things from his grandchildren, especially from his future heir: “I knew the kind of answer Grandad wanted me to give.”
Granddad lives life by mottos, and is inflexible in his opinions: “Never take a seat in the back of the room. Winners sit up front.”
We were Liars is a thought-provoking little gem of a novel, highly recommended for readers of Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Fiction, and Romance.
Some More Favourite Quotes:
“There is not even a Scrabble word for how bad I feel.”
“What if we could stop being different colors, different backgrounds, and just be in love?”
“We are liars. We are beautiful and privileged. We are cracked and broken.”
“We are Sinclairs. Beautiful. Privileged. Damaged. Liar. We live, least in the summertime, on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts. Perhaps that is all you need to know.”
In 2014 We Were Liars was a Goodreads Choice winner in the category Young Adult Fiction.
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Have you read We were Liars? Do leave a comment below I’d love to hear from you.
Bye for now,
Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx