We Were Liars
by E. Lockhart
Read: May 12 - 13, 2014
Published: May 13, 2014 by Delacorte Press
Source: ALA (Thank You, Random House!)
Category: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Find: Goodreads | Amazon
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.
BEFORE reading: In my mind, I equated We Were Liars to being something like The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I was also convinced I wasn't going to like it, so I went in with very low expectations. Not because of my preconceived literary comparison, but because of the very mixed reactions I'd seen.
AFTER reading: Surprise. Surprise.
Surprise #1: I really liked this! I was shocked at how well it worked for me. Also, I wasn't totally wrong with The Secret History comparison. I mean it's not that story at all, but both books center around wealthy New England youth who deal in twisty lies, scheming and shenanigans. In fact, this story invoked the spirit of some of the classics I've read featuring powerful, destructive families and class issues. Brideshead Revisited was also mentioned in passing through the course of the narrative. And there's a film that's different from those, which I also thought of while reading this book, especially towards the end when I figured out what was happening. But it's a spoiler, so I will refrain from mentioning it.
Surprise #2: Even though I guessed the big reveal, I still liked this. Watching the pieces come together just heightened my experience with this story. However, I do wish everyone wasn't talking about the fact that this book centers around a a big THING you're not supposed to talk about. Because I don't think I would have guessed if I'd gone into the book more organically, and hadn't known to be looking for it.
What I loved so much about We Were Liars is the broken, hazy feel to the story, set off by the short sentences, the poetic vivid imagery, Cadence's missing memories and the fact that we know so little about the characters - only their summer selves. And only what Cadence remembers and chooses to share with us. This is not a character driven story, and I've seen complaints of people not connecting to the players, but this all worked to heighten the creepy mystery atmosphere. After working at an overnight camp for a few summers as a teen, I can definitely relate to the idea of a separate summer life. Like your summer self is not reality. Or it is somehow more vivid, and who you really are.
Some elements in this story are far fetched and I can see where knowing the characters better would have made connections and motives stronger and more relatable, but that didn't bother me while reading. And I can see where those things also might have taken away from the atmosphere created by the prose and storytelling, which I quite liked. This book is clever, beautifully tragic, and riveting. I encourage you to pick it up and experience it for yourself. The only way you'll really know what you think about We Were Liars is to read it for yourself.
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone