TITLE: We Were Liars
AUTHOR: E. Lockhart
PUBLISHER: Allen & Unwin
RELEASE DATE: May 13, 2014
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction
PAGE COUNT: 225
We Were Liars has a reputation for dividing readers – whether you love it or hate it, everyone seems to have a strong opinion about this book. While I hoped to be blown away, I didn’t connect with the characters. While some aspects of the story resonated with me, overall I wasn’t impacted as much as I expected and hoped to be.
Every summer, the Sinclairs live it up on their private island. 15-year-old Cadence and her cousins – the “Liars” – spend the summer making mischief. However, an unexplained accident that results in Cadence’s amnesia and crippling migraines forces her to question the Sinclair’s paradise.
Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family. No one is a criminal. No one is an addict. No one is a failure. The Sinclairs are athletic, tall, and handsome. We are old-money Democrats. Our smiles are wide, our chins are square, and our tennis serves aggressive – page 1
We see the events of We Were Liars through Cadence’s eyes. Her voice is unique, ironically romantic to show how tragic her family’s delusions of grandeur truly are. Cadence is an unreliable narrator – we learn the events leading up to her memory loss through time-hopping and guesses. Her voice also uses a lot of repetition and surreal imagery. While some readers will enjoy this style, I found it jarring.
My full name is Cadence Sinclair Eastman … It is true I suffer migraines since my accident. It is true I do not suffer fools. I like a twist of meaning. You see? Suffer migraines. Do not suffer fools. The word means almost the same as it did in the previous sentence, but not quite. Suffer. You could say it means endure, but that’s not exactly right – page 4
Cadence’s story centres on her relationships with her fellow Liars – cousins Mirren and Johnny, and step-cousin Gat. I didn’t empathise with any of them – not even Gat whom Cadence views through rose-tinted glasses. That said, the Sinclairs are purposely dislikable. Their attitude of entitlement and constant fighting reveals the ugliness of their hearts. As a result, I often felt like I was watching an over-acted theatre performance. I assume this alienation is deliberate, but it didn’t resonate with me at all.
The entire plot leads up to a shocking twist. Exactly as the book’s title suggests, every nook and cranny of the story is littered with lies that amount to one huge deception. Although I didn’t feel connected to the characters, the twist was confronting enough to shock me.
I understand why readers disagree over We Were Liars – different aspects of the story and the character’s struggles will touch many different chords. It has the power to provoke self-reflection and discussion. I can see the merit in this story even if it wasn’t for me.