Book Review: We Were Liars by E Lockhart


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.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE   –     from Goodreads

My Rating:  ★★★★★

My Thoughts:  

What a brilliant book. Everyone should take the time to read this book if you have the opportunity. Part of the engrossing charm of this book is the mystery, which unravels gradually, so it’s actually quite difficult to say a great deal without running the risk of spoiling the story.

Many reviews mention the twist in the tale, so I was aware and looking out – reading carefully – or so I thought, because when it came I was astounded. I NEVER saw it coming, not for a minute, and it really is the kind of thing that makes you want to venture straight back to the beginning of the book to seek out all the hints that somehow you managed to miss.

The Liars are the privileged children of privileged people who own a private island. There’s a map at the front of the book, which I spent some time looking at before I started reading, noting place names and so forth, but it’s only a few pages in, when you realise that grandfather Sinclair built all those houses for each of his three daughters that it really hits – this is a PRIVATE ISLAND, and it truly is like a world set apart from the usual everyday world.

At first glance the Sinclair family have it all, but it’s an illusion, for something is very wrong in the family, as we learn from our narrator, Cadence Sinclair Eastman, who had an accident she can barely remember, and huge gaps in her memories of a summer shared with her cousins, the Liars of the title. Into this close-knit, seemingly exclusive family comes Gat, who is an outsider with an awareness of real world issues which burst the bubble of this perfect world, for as he observes, there are people out there in real desperate need, whilst on the private island it‘s like another life. His ideas resound particularly with Cadence, for she begins to fall in love with him over the course of that lost summer.

After a time spent recovering away from the island, Cadence returns and attempts to piece together the truth, whilst never receiving too much help from her young cousins, who have apparently been warned by their parents not to prompt her, that her memories must return in their own time.
The gradual unravelling of the mysteries surrounding summer fifteen cause an increasing sense of dread that Cadence probably isn’t going to like what she may eventually find out, and there are some heartbreaking revelations towards the latter stages of the book which were wonderfully written (and I’m finding it VERY difficult not to go into detail here, because you really do need to read this book and experience all that firsthand).

Cadence is a great character. Her way of expressing things is sometimes outrageous but very real, for example, when her father left she likens it to being shot by him. The way in which she describes her fellow Liars is also wonderfully poetic.

I loved the way in which we gradually come to realise that Cadence is somewhat unreliable as the narrator, for there are huge gaps in her memory, and what she does recall is largely the result of what her mother has told her and what she wrote down, regarding her accident.
There is a pervading sense of all those surrounding Cadence holding back vital information, and there are so many questions unanswered, and so much she cannot be certain of that her isolation and frustration is almost tangible at certain points, and it makes for a really exciting read.
She’s part of this privileged family, but she is set apart too, because of her experiences and because she herself does not know the truth. She acknowledges the perfect veneer of the family image, but then observes that she herself is damaged, that her mind is troubled, she relies on painkillers, and isn’t particularly nice to her younger family members. She’s very real.
And so are the memories of that lost summer with the Liars, wherein we learn more about the dynamics within the Sinclair family, and the way in which issues affecting the ‘grown ups’ may also influence the children.

The writing is beautiful and engaging and the book itself is a real page turner.
It’s inevitable that I must mention that twist just once more, for you really will reach the end and feel a strong compulsion to turn straight back to page one and begin the story again, wondering how on earth you missed it.
It’s certainly a book that I will return to again in the future, for I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed something quite as much as I did this book. If anyone asks me for a reading recommendation, this will be the book I suggest for quite a while, and I’ll certainly envy them that first read.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: We Were Liars by E Lockhart

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