Centered around a wealthy family who spends their summers on a private island, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart starts off feeling pretentious and unrealistic.
Cadence Sinclair, the narrator, feels familiar, if not one-dimensional, in the first quarter of the book.
She’s a 15-year-old in love; it’s a perfect setup for your classic young adult love story. However, this idealistic and picturesque beginning soon devolves into a dark and bitter narrative.
The Sinclair family spends every summer on their private island where the grandparents have built houses for their three daughters and their families.
Immediately, readers become aware that the family is not so picture-perfect.
Tragedies and addictions haunt each member of the family despite their canny ability to hide their horrors behind perfect blonde hair, smiles and politeness.
Cadence, the eldest granddaughter, has grown up close to the other grandchildren near her own age, Johnny and Mirren. At 15, Cadence falls in love with Gat, a guest who begins joining the Sinclairs on the island every summer. But that summer, something tragic happens.
The problem is, we don’t know what. An illness? An accident? Cadence can’t remember, so readers are left in the dark.
All we know is that she is found on the shore, half-covered by the waves.
Two summers later, she is returning to the island. She’s been on medication ever since and suffers from serious migraines.
Still, she is excited to see her friends – especially Gat – and discover what happened that summer.
The reader is just as clueless as Cadence, and together they must put the pieces together to find what lies behind the smiles and lies of the family.
The book is unique in many ways, one of which being the writing itself. It is not clean, yet it is fitting of a narrator whose mind is broken and untrustworthy.
This style may prove difficult and distasteful to some readers; it’s like nothing I’ve read before.
It combines prose with the structure of poetry to form a brilliant, albeit disorienting, novel that some will relish and others will rebuke.
Likewise, the characters themselves are choppy and filled with holes.
Readers never get a full grasp on who each character is, which makes sense, considering the title of the book.
This makes the mystery of Cadence’s 15th summer all the harder to solve. Readers cannot trust anyone, not even Cadence herself.
In the end, I found myself doubting if We Were Liars should be considered a young adult book at all.
It is filled with twists and turns, and with all the solutions to the mystery I considered, none were so dark or shocking as what really happened that summer two years ago.
It’s a clever novel, one of the few in which I never even suspected what the end might be.
The moment I finished and cleared my eyes of tears, I went straight back to the beginning to find all the clues I’d missed.
We Were Liars is definitely worth the read. It’s the perfect book to hand over to those who doubt the validity and worth of young adult literature.
While the narrative style is odd, it serves a purpose in leading you to the same dark truth Cadence is looking for and will likely send your mind whirling, trying to discover what you missed.