We Were Liars
by E. Lockhart
Random House (Delacorte Press)
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.
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.
I simultaneously have so much to say and nothing at all. We Were Liars is about a rich family named the Sinclairs who spend their summers on their private island. The Liars are actually teenaged cousins, with the exception of Gat, who only ever see each other during these summers. The story leads up to an accident and deals with its repercussions.
I came into this with some pretty high expectations because of the hype surrounding the book, and being a fan of suspense novels. What’s great about it, is that the journey is so beautifully constructed that its twist ending could easily be as disappointing as an M. Night Shyamalan movie but not have it affect your overall reading experience.
The star of this novel is the writing. Now, I love a good metaphor just as much as the next person but I’ve read plenty of books where the beautiful metaphors are packed back-to-back making it difficult to really absorb it and let it breathe on the page. Lockhart handled that so well, allowing for moments of delayed reaction. It takes a few sentences to realize that you, in fact, have just read a metaphor and that something literal wasn’t happening. An example would be describing drowning only to realize it was figurative, emotional drowning versus the actual kind involving water.
Lockhart’s style and voice in this book is so distinct in the way she utilizes specific names or phrases throughout, like calling the younger kids “the littles,” the golden retrievers, “the blondes,” the teens, “the liars,” and referring to the different summers according how old the four teens are at the time (i.e. summer fifteen). She also described characters in brief sentences that were packed with nouns and adjectives that they where essentially made out of:
Dad was a middling-successful professor of military history. Back then I adored him. He wore tweed jackets. He was gaunt. He drank milky tea. He was fond of board games and let me win, fond of boats and taught me to kayak, fond of bicycles, books, and art museums.
Overall, it was a very sensory experience which feels perfect given that it’s told through Cadence’s point of view as one of the Liars during her teen years.
The book also does an interesting critique of wealth, privilege and race. It’s subtle, but also ingrained in the book’s bones. Gat, one of the Liars, is the outsider. Not only physically as an Indian boy, which is such a stark contrast to the Sinclair white skin and blonde hair, but also financially and ideologically. He’s the one that awakens (or reminds) readers, and Cadence, of the privilege she has as a Sinclair. He relates patriarchy to Harris, Cadence’s grandfather, and his home on their island, Clairmont, in his control of the island and his family. This is further re-enforced by variations on fairytales that Lockhart sprinkles throughout that refer to the three daughters. They are supposed to mirror the three Sinclair women, who are also the Liars’ mothers. Three women still very dependent on their father financially, and a man who whips out the Sinclair name as though it were a form of currency.
Short yet impactful is how I would categorize this book, clocking in at 225 pages. It’s been a while since I read a book from E. Lockhart as a high school student, but as a twenty-one year old University graduate, I find that Lockhart’s diversity in style as well as growth as a writer parallels my own growth as a reader.
The book is available in stores now.