We Were Liars by E. Lockhart ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
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.