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Estelle: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars by E LockhartWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 240
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: family obligations, secrets, summer, romance
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary:  Cadence Sinclair can’t remember anything. Except her cousins and the boy she loves = the Liars. Summertime with her family in Beechwood Island. And most of all, always putting on appearances.

The kind of power that Granddad wielded over his family makes me angry because this man with all of this money and all of his houses only grew to be more powerful because those around him were too weak to stand up to him. Too weak to stand up for what they wanted and too obsessed with the trust funds they heavily relied on. At least, that’s how his daughters felt. The grandkids — they were a different story.

Cadence (our narrator), Mirren, Johnny, and Gat (not related but not ignorant of these family dynamics) were tired of being pawns in their mom’s schemes to own all the best stuff, stay in Granddad’s good graces, and maintain the facade of the successful, wealthy Sinclair family. When you are young and 15, you can be idealistic and can be so gung-ho about eliciting change and breaking free from the obligations and unrealistic expectations of your family. While these four teenagers definitely had their share of immature moments (who doesn’t at 15), I do think they had a grasp on how the game was played.

But how could they alter things? Did they have the power?

Lockhart has written a captivating story of a puppeteering and manipulating patriarch who cares much more about dollars signs and maintaining control than formulating real bonds with his family and seeing the people in his family be happy by their own accord. So much of We Were Liars was completely fucked up. Using the young ones to keep your kids-who-are-now-adults in line, pushing aside the obvious prejudice Granddad feels toward Gat, and most importantly, how badly this family collects possessions in efforts to top the other.

While the character development was well-done (especially in the pettier scenes), Lockhart’s writing style completely blew me away. The rhythm felt calculated and perfect, and so poetic; it was fast paced and swept me up in this tornado of romance and treachery. I must note the dialogue. It was authentic but also had a flair of theatricality. I could picture these words making quite the impression on stage, and at the same time, could have easily pictured myself saying them in real life.

But for all the intriguing details of We Were Liars, something stopped me from feeling too connected to the story. (Is it possible for the writing to be a triumph and a hindrance at the same time? Maybe.) As Cadence searched for answers about that last summer at Beechwood Island, my brain was scrambling to pick up small clues and figure out what happened. Why had the Liars been ignoring her? Why did they not rush to her aid when she needed it? So I was more curious than anything. But, on the other hand, the romance between Gat and Cadence did turn me inside out because what happens when you feel so much for someone but see that nothing is falling easily into place? Especially since Beechwood was this exclusive, dreamlike world that fed their connection to one another and would never be a year-round thing.

We Are Liars is mysterious and heartbreaking, full of small-minded folks and a perpetual cycle of greed, and children who are forced to suffer because of it. It’s one of those books that had my brain working in overdrive, and also kept me so interested I finished in just about a day. While the style and tone of the writing was so memorable, I think a few fleshed out scenes (not too many, just enough) to balance out the prettily expressed thoughts would have served to create a connection I didn’t always feel.

Still, I think I need this book in my possession.

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July 15, 2014 - 8:02 am

Attention, Attention: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - […] you’re at work, though, I’ll highlight a few things I loved and you can also check out Estelle’s amazing review. She said it was worth it. I took her advice and absolutely haven’t been able to stop […]

June 1, 2014 - 4:36 am

Judith - So much of your review is EXACTLY how I felt about this book. God, the family dynamics made me so ANGRY. I really wanted to smack the grandfather and his children because man, they were either dominant or completely powerless, and all because of money. I really, really hated them. It’s interesting because I don’t think the characters were really well-written, per se, but I think that if they had been, the big twist wouldn’t have been so surprising. Yes to Lockhart’s writing. It’s mesmerizing!

May 14, 2014 - 10:54 am

Alexa S. - We Were Liars had really great writing, in my opinion! I thoroughly enjoyed diving into my first Lockhart book. It was twisty and mysterious and petty and effed up, but I just couldn’t take my eyes off the page! While I didn’t super love it, I can definitely say it was, as you’ve rated it, worth it.

May 9, 2014 - 5:52 pm

April Books & Wine - I get the disconnect, or at least the not being like YES I CAN RELATE HELLO EMPATHY. Or, the feeling at a distance.

For me, I love love love this book even though I also don’t think I totally 100% connected with Cadence, I actually felt more connected to Gat.

But, I still felt for her and her situation, especially with the whole money thing, etc.

Also, the whole mystery of what happened, like you, that really propelled my reading!

May 8, 2014 - 12:49 pm

Nicole @ The Quiet Concert - I too was amazed by the writing. That was my favorite thing about this book – that and the ending. But what kept me from feeling connected to the story was that everything else kind of fell flat. I didn’t feel much for the characters, or the setting, or anything else really. I’m still glad I read it!

May 8, 2014 - 12:48 pm

Lucy @ The Reading Date - I’ve been trying to avoid reading too many reviews of this one because of the surprise factor and I want to go into it blind. Patiently waiting for my audiobook preorder to arrive, and I’m glad to see you found it worth it. Sometimes the stylized makes it hard to connect, but i’m excited to check out my first E. Lockhart book regardless.

May 8, 2014 - 11:28 am

Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide - I definitely felt like I rushed through this one too! I had THEORIES pretty early on (which turned out to be right. Kind of boo on that because I wanted to be shocked!) so I felt like I was scrambling through the book to find out what the ending was.
I think overall it wasn’t quite a “me” book? I felt like I didn’t connect with the characters and I was hoping for a little bit more character development somehow. There was just something big missing for me that didn’t make it a win! still a good book and I enjoyed it but not as great as I had hoped and hype definitely won this battle for me!

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