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.
The truth. (From Goodreads)
Source: eARC from Netgalley/Random House Children’s for review purposes
That jacket copy is a little vague, isn’t it? It gives nothing away. And I don’t usually like when it’s purposely ambiguous because I want to know what I’ll be reading about and if I even want to read this story. The bad thing is that I cannot tell you too much, either, for fear of spoiling the whole dang thing.
Let me begin by saying I’ve read all but two of E. Lockhart’s books. This book is a complete departure. Remember, this is the woman who wrote Ruby Oliver and Frankie Landau Banks. We Were Liars is a story about Cady, who is the oldest grandchild in a family who summers on their own island off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard with the rest of the extended family, her cousins, aunts, and grandparents. They’re tall, blonde, gorgeous, came-over-on-the-Mayflower, old money.
The summer Cady is fifteen, she falls for the handsome boy who has been visiting the island and their family every summer for years. But also that summer, the first since the death of the family matriarch, has the adults fighting over inheritances and the children being used as pawns in the battle. Cady has an “accident” that causes her to be hospitalized and lose her memory. The rest of the story is Cady trying to figure out just what happened that summer and why Gat, her first love, has been radio-silent since the accident.
Cady’s state of mind is fragile and her narrative is full of dramatic, and a bit morbid, imagery. Your typical 17 year old. Because of what happened to her, she has headaches and memory lapses and she feels left out of the rest of the “Liars” (which includes her, her two cousins, and Gat) because she hasn’t been to the island since she was 15. No one will tell her what happened and she makes it her goal to remember.
My Thoughts: I didn’t know what to make of this book. I had no frame of reference because of that vague jacket copy and Cady’s narration was at times confusing. It took me several starts and stops before I could I felt pulled in enough to not want to put it down, but Lockhart’s writing does pull you in and makes you want to continue, despite how confused and frustrated you may be. It was a very well written, intriguing story about a girl that I came to really love. Cady’s unreliable memory made me feel like I was working, trying to figure out what really happened right along side of her. She was a very sympathetic character. This book felt a bit like a YA take on Shakespeare’s King Lear or the book A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (itself a contemporary take on King Lear). Not the whole thing, but the bare bones, which Lockhart used in the background of We Were Liars. Now…there’s not much more I can say without giving away the brilliant way it played out…It’s not a new narrative device, but it is very effective way of explaining what happened to Cady.
Let me tell you, when you get to the last section and read that first page, your mouth will drop open and you will probably scream, “WHAT?!?!” So, just warning you. You still have a little ways to go, so you should probably make yourself some tea and cuddle up with your puppy or cat (if they let you) to make it through the rest of the book.
I didn’t love the book, but I did love Cady and felt for her and wanted to stroke her forehead when she got her horrible migraines. There were things I didn’t get, including how people who knew the truth treated her. E. Lockhart has really taken a chance with this book because it’s so different than her other books. But I liked it and I’m glad she had this story to tell. This review has kind of gotten away from me. My rating is probably lower than you might expect given the length of this review, but it feels right to me. I urge you to pick this book up, though, to form your own opinion because I do believe that it is a story that many will love and it begs to have a huge audience. It’s quiet book and the story needs to be told…so read it.