Friday, July 3, 2015

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Published Date: May 13th, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
240 pages


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.

True love.

The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.

And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

What Did I Think About the Story?

I bought this book last summer after reading all the hype about how shocking the ending is and how readers just couldn't put it down. After reading Gone Girl I love the idea of unreliable narrators and characters that you just can't quite bring yourself to trust or believe, so this seemed like the perfect time to dive into a story about a group of teenagers with secrets surrounding their summers on a private family island. While the book definitely kept my attention and did have an ending that surprised me, I can't say that it quite lived up to the hype or shocked me as much as I was expecting.

My first impression of the Sinclairs, the family at the center of the novel, is that they are basically the Kennedy's: affluent, old-moneyed Democrats who own a private island off the coast of Martha's Vineyard and appear to all the world to have it all. Things are never as they seem, of course, and as the younger generation of the Sinclairs begin to grow up and realize their parents and grandparents are manipulative, money hungry and terribly flawed, they band together to form a group they call"the liars" and declare they will be different from their family. This sense of righteous indignation is made that much stronger by the presence of their friend, Gat, an outsider who spends his summers with the Sinclairs but the rest of the year in much more average surroundings. His passionate feelings towards their entitlement fuels these teenagers, especially our narrator, Cady, who falls head over heels in love with Gat. But something terrible happened the summer the liars were fifteen that caused Cady to lose her memory and it is only when she returns to the island a few summers later that the real history surrounding the Sinclairs and that fateful summer comes to light.

We Were Liars is a really quick read. I am not the fastest reader and I swallowed this one up in just two days. The author does a great job of keeping the story progressing as Cady attempts to remember what really happened that summer and piece together the strange behaviors of her family. I think my favorite part was just trying to figure out what parts of Cady's narrative were true and what was word play, Cady being a character that tells us from the beginning that she likes to twist the meaning of words. It was also really interesting to peek behind the curtain of this rich, entitled family and see all the cracks and dirty bits they were hiding. The in-fighting and greediness was just appalling and I could understand why the younger generation was trying to separate themselves from that manipulation and control.

The ending (which I won't give away as that seems to be a big draw of this story) was surprising but  not really shocking. You have these people who went through a terrible ordeal and are trying - or not trying, depending on the person - to work through their grief and move on as best they can. It was definitely sad but I don't feel like it brought the story to any real resolution. Yes, the reader will know what happened that fateful summer by the end of the story, but at the heart nothing really has changed in the circumstances or opinions of the people we see at the end. They're just battered and scarred. 

I believe this is classified as a YA novel and I think that designation is perfect for it. Teenagers reading it will really relate to the feelings and emotions of the characters, even if they don't have the same luxuries as the Sinclairs, and I think that more innocent and impetuous nature that comes with being young will make the ending that much more dramatic (while, for me, I kept thinking "you dumb kids, DON'T DO THAT!!). The actions of these characters have severe consequences and I appreciate the author showing those consequences without sugar coating it. That being said, I think the advanced hype just had me wishing for something else after I turned the last page.

Any reader looking for a good, quick summer read will be happy to pick up We Were Liars. It will definitely hold your attention for a few hours, just don't expect to gasp and shout at the end. For me, at least, the ending left me satisfied that I finally read the book, but not necessarily so drawn in that I feel the need to read it again.  

What Do I Think About the Cover?

I really like it! It fits that summery feel and gives you an idea of the location and age of the characters. I also like the sort of ambiguous, shaded look of the teenagers as that plays somewhat into the storyline.

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

Has anyone else read We Were Liars? What did you think about it? Have you read any other  novels that play up that unreliable narrator angle?

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