Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
It’s really hard to review a book that is shrouded in such mystery, but we’re going to try. And this review is completely spoiler free.
This is the back cover copy:
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.
Cadence Sinclair-Eastman is our main character. She comes from a family with tremendous amounts of wealth, but even the wealthy have their problems. Every summer her family gathers together on a private island steeped in tradition. Here she meets up with her cousins and a family friend – the Liars. This is a fascinating relationship, so many interesting family dynamics, so many secrets, and so compelling.
When we first meet Cady, she has been involved in a swimming accident and has no memory of what happened the last summer. She spends the rest of the book trying to unravel the pieces in a very well written exploration of grief and family pressures.
Then a bunch of stuff that I can’t tell you about happens. And then there is a big reveal ending. And my exact words were, “I am gobsmacked.” I truly did not guess any of this and what it reveals about our characters, their world, and the challenges that they faces was very interesting. There is some deep, thoughtful exploration of things like identity, family pressures, and forbidden love here.
This is a really well written book. At first I questioned whether or not a lot of teens would be able to relate because of the tremendous wealth of the main characters (I do have a friend who put it down before finishing because she said none of her teens would be interested because of the high poverty rate in her area), but the things that they deal with are really universal themes: family problems, falling in and out of love. And there is some good tension regarding issues of socio-economic class and racism. Lockhart manages to tell a story about the incredibly rich and bring in some good challenges that make it relatable for every reader. And the ways in which it all ties together are truly well done.
I will also say that Lockhart drops in a few references that I think teen readers won’t get. For example, Cady makes mention of the fact that she felt like they were “going back to Mandalay again” – a reference to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – and I happened to be sitting in a room full of teens while reading so I asked them if they knew what that meant. They did not.
It’s a challenging read, taking on the theme of deception. We are, after all, dealing with a group of people who call themselves the Liars. It’s about how we deceive each other, those around us and, most importantly, ourselves. Thought provoking, with some gothic overtones, mystery, and amazing twists and turns along the way. Highly recommended.
Coming in May 2014. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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