We Were Liars
E. Lockhart (Twitter) (Novel site)
Delacorte Press (May 2014), Hardcover (ISBN 038574126X / 9780385741262)
Fiction (YA), 240 pages
Source: Purchased ebook (iBooks edition, ISBN 9780385390095)
I was a little apprehensive about reading We Were Liars. It seemed to be emerging as one of 2014’s Books Everyone Loves, and I’d already had a disappointing experience with another of those books this year On top of that, E. Lockhart’s 2009 novel The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is a book I dearly love—one of my 2010 “Books of the Year”—so any such disappointment with her latest novel would be that much more affecting.
We Were Liars is something of a “disreputable history” itself—or, at least, a questioning and questionable one. Seventeen-year-old Cadence Sinclair Eastman is trying to reconstruct the events of two years before—the last summer she was on the Sinclair family’s private island off the Massachusetts coast, when she suffered the injuries that caused her continuing migraines and partial memory loss. Cady’s mother is being overprotective, her grandfather is developing dementia, and the cousins with whom she has reunited every summer since childhood–the family calls the four of them “the Liars”–aren’t helping her fill in the blanks. But in this familiar and beloved setting, things begin to come back to Cady…things that change her entire perspective on who the Sinclairs really are.
Because this novel is largely plot-driven, and the plotting is far more effective if the reader discovers certain things at the same time its protagonist does, there’s not much more I can tell you about We Were Liars—but I will tell you its twists did catch me by surprise. I was also surprised by the fairytale and Shakespearean elements Lockhart blends into the story, including the overt, if underdeveloped, references to King Lear. I was not surprised by the high quality of the writing, but I expected more substantial character and thematic development, both of which were strengths of …Frankie Landau-Banks.
I realize that We Were Liars is telling a different story in a different way. I recognize its intelligence and I appreciate its stylistic ambitions, but I think my hopes for it were for something deeper than style…and so, yes, I have to admit I found it just a bit disappointing. I think maybe I’ll blame Frankie Landau-Banks for skewing my expectations.
Book description, from the publisher’s website
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.
Lies upon lies.
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.
From Chapter One:
“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 square, and our tennis serves aggressive.
“It doesn’t matter if divorce shreds the muscles of our hearts so that they will hardly beat without a struggle. It doesn’t matter if trust-fund money is running out; if credit card bills go unpaid on the kitchen counter. It doesn’t matter if there’s a cluster of pill bottles on the bedside table.
“It doesn’t matter if one of us is desperately, desperately in love.
“So much in love that equally desperate measuresmust be taken.
“We are Sinclairs.
“No one is needy.
“No one is wrong.
“We live, at least in the summertime, on a private island oﬀ the coast of Massachusetts.
“Perhaps that is all you need to know.”