Book Review: We Were Liars
By: E. Lockhart
Goodreads Score: 3.90
My Score: 3.4
Highlights: Lyrical Writing Style, Psychological Aspects
So, I saw this book at Barnes and Nobles a few months ago, when they only stocked it in hardcover. The title, summary, and first page all intrigued me…but, as a hardcover book, it was over twenty dollars, and it didn’t intrigue me that much. So, I left Barnes and Nobles with two paperbacks instead and forgot all about it for a while.
Then I started seeing reviews crop up all over the blog-o-sphere. Everyone and their pet Chihuahua was reading this book (don’t worry–I know that Chihuahuas can’t read. Let me rephrase: everyone and their pet German Husky). Still, I might not have picked it up…except for the fact that everyone’s opinions seemed so polarized. Many bloggers were absolutely raving about We Were Liars, while others were bemoaning it with a burning hatred that clawed at them from the insides out.
And of course, we’ve all heard about that Major Plot Twist. Or, at least, it’s literally all I’ve heard about the book. When I asked other people what it was about, a typical answer was, “Well, there’s this huge plot twist near the end.” And I kind of understand why, now. Because the plot of this book isn’t one easily summed up. If you asked me, I’d probably say something along the lines of, ‘well, there is this family obsessed with appearances, and there re three teenagers in this family, and one outsider, who spend a lot of time with each other, and two of these teenagers have a flawed romance going on, and all the adults are manipulative, and the teens think about life and generosity and what it means to be good, and oh, yeah, there’s some dogs in there, too.’ It’s not exactly a description that makes you want to rush to the bookstore. The real plot lies (ha!) somewhat deeper, in a series of flashbacks of the Liars, in the manipulation and greed that defines the Liars’ parents, and in Cadence’s struggles and revelations.
So, basically, the book was pretty, but it was also directionless at times, and there were a couple of points where I was just like ‘where is this even going?’. If you like your books to have a solid direction and lots of clarity (you know who the antagonist is, there is a clear conflict, etc.) then We Were Liars will definitely feel too free-floating for you.
Because I had heard so much about the (in)famous plot twist, I was keeping a close eye on the book as I went along, trying to guess what it could be before I got to it. I was actually keeping little notes as I read, and for those of you who don’t mind a potential spoiler, I’ll post them a few lines down. After, of course, issuing a firm:
*SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. AVERT YOUR EYES, QUICKLY SCROLL DOWN UNTIL YOU SEE ME SCREAMING AT YOU WITH MORE CAPS. THANK YOU. *
Highlight the below text. It should show up. Yay for technology. And magic. Honestly, I’m not sure which one this is.
Page 51: Ohmygosh, is everyone dead? Ohmygosh, everyone is actually dead.
Page 51 1/2: Oh, so Gat dies, leaving her alone, and that’s why he never answers anything. I see.
Page 74: And now I’m just confused. Like, what the fuck is this? The Liars are still on the Island, and actually seem happy to see her, soooo…did everyone just abandon her? Agh! I just don’t even know anymore.
So, as you can see, I was a bit indecisive. I did, however, hit close to the mark. But even though I was sort of expecting it, I was still shocked when I realized that one of my two guesses was actually right.
*SPOILERS DONE. NOT THAT YOU COULD SEE THEM ANYWAY, BUT JUST SO YOU COULD AVOID THE TEMPTATION OF IT ALL, YOU KNOW?*
Anyways, I’ll zoom in a little and focus less on the book as a whole, and more on the characters. There’s the Sinclairs. Rich, attractive, composed, and united. Hahahaha. Right, so there’s the Sinclairs: Squandering away their money, fighting with and manipulating each other, and breaking into a thousand tiny pieces.
Well, when I say that, I really specifically mean the second generation of Sinclairs–the parents of the Liars.
But let’s zoom in a little bit more, and talk about the Liars themselves. Each one of them comes from a different immediate family. There’s the main character: Cadence Eastman. Then Mirren Sheffields. Johnny Dennise. And Gat, who is Johnny’s mother’s boyfriend’s nephew (whew! That’s a mouthful. Really, all you need to know is that he comes to the Sinclair Island every summer like the rest of them, and is not part of the family, making the romance between him and Cadence legal).
The book is told through Cadence’s point of view, with many flashbacks throughout, as Cadence has suffered from selective amnesia after an accident one summer.
Hard to like. She gets terrible migraine pains after the accident, her dad left her mother and her, she’s hopelessly in love with Gat, and she is SO hard to like.
First off, she is terribly clingy. So, so possessive. The romance between her and Gat is weird, with Gat kissing her and being way into her at points, and then quickly backing it up at other points, and with Cadence knowing he has a girlfriend, but not asking about her, and Gat not telling. Many times, Gat tells Cadence that they can’t be together. Many times, Cadence tells herself that she shouldn’t be with him. And yet, she is constantly thinking of him as ‘mine’. They know they’re bad for each other (or, at least, they think they are), but they bounce back and forth between true love, first crush, and teen angst in a way that makes me so annoyed. Grr. There were so many things they could have done to make their relationship either last, or for them to back off from each other, and they chose neither. Gah.
And while I’m ranting, let me move onto the title: We Were Liars. It’s a pretty title. And for a while, it works. Cadence tells us readers that her pack of homies were called the Liars by their parents. Thus, they really were the Liars.
Why do the parents call them the Liars? Cadence doesn’t give us one damn example. The teens seem adventurous and rebellious at times (though I only give them those titles lightly), but they don’t seem like liars. Especially not in the first half of the book, long after they were apparently dubbed as so.
It may seem like a weird gripe, but it has had me scratching my head in thought for the past few days, wondering what I missed. So, if you’ve read the book and happen to understand, please let me know in the comments. I’d be grateful (this is not sarcasm. I really do want to know if this was explained and I somehow missed out on something).
Anyways, it seems like I’ve ranted a lot for the (fairly) decent review rating I gave this book. And I guess that that’s because although I didn’t like the characters, the plot was foggy, and the Liars part was confusion, the book was still written under the spell of that fog that seemed to wrap around the plot. It’s light, and misty, and mysterious, and kind of beautiful.
Plus, I did finish it within three hours. I didn’t want to put it down, so I didn’t. And I think that’s worth something when it comes to a points rating system.
Have you read We Were Liars? If so, let me know what you thought of it! Do you agree with my rating? Have you read any good books lately? Have any recommendations? Again, let me know in the comments below!