Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

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 .

My Review:

I heard crazy hype about this book for the last few months.  "It's the next Gone Girl!" they said.  "You won't believe the twist!" they said.  Plus, the summary (above) is reminiscent of the book jacket for Chris Cleave's Little Bee, which basically tells you absolutely nothing about the novel, and implores you to never tell anyone else about the novel before they've read it.  (In Little Bee's case, that description is entirely justified, so of course this piqued my interest.)  I had to see for myself.  To the library!

After waiting it out at #63 on the hold list, I finally got my chance at We Were Liars.  And I do see why this book is so hype-worthy.  From page one, you just get the sense that something  I wasn't sure if it was the protagonist (Cadence), her family, the setting (a secluded private island), or all of it.  But something was wrong, and I couldn't put my finger on it.  That eerie feeling compelled me to plow through the book at top speed...and yes, the climactic twist made it worth it.  It's one of those sudden plot changes that makes you want to go back and re-read the entire novel, because OH MY GOD, how did you not figure it out sooner?

That said...after I finished my speed-reading of the novel and had time to calm down after that rush of an ending, I did pinpoint a few things that I was a bit iffy on.  I can't go into too much detail (spoiler-free zone), but despite the amazingness of the big ending, I realized later that there were an awful lot of convenient details that caused that twist to happen.  Things that were ignored by the characters (or the author) that allowed that big event to be possible.  Thus, it all felt a little too neat, given the gravity of the circumstances.  I think this, more than anything, identified the book squarely in the YA genre for me, rather than giving it the ability to overlap with adult fiction.  I'm not trying to trash YA, but in general, those books tend to wrap things up more cleanly for a younger reading audience, versus the ambiguity that is more typical in adult novels.

This convenience factor was the only significant downside for me.  A smaller caveat was the overly-dramatic style of Cadence's narrative--she was always melting into puddles or bleeding on someone (figuratively, of course) and I started to roll my eyes a bit at the unnecessarily theatrical descriptions that were fairly constant in the text.  However, these did get less glaring as the novel went on, likely because the plot action picked up to a pace that started to match her emotional upheavals.

Final verdict on this hit novel of the summer?  Yes, I think you should read We Were Liars.  It's short and fast-paced, great for a beach read.  And the twist is 100% as good as the critics say.  Stylistically, it leaves a bit to be desired, which places it below a suspense novel like Gone Girl for me.  But if you want a novel that's going to keep you on your toes, it's an awesome pick.

Have you read We Were Liars this summer, friends?  What did you think?


  1. Thanks for your review. I've not read it yet (library queues!) but i do intend to. I absolutely see why you have classified it as YA.

    1. Darn those library queues, right?? I couldn't believe I got it as fast as I did (about 2 weeks wait).

  2. I'm planning on reading this one soon, I'm excited about it, but I'll try to temper my expectations :).

    1. Yes, I will try to participate in Fellowship of the Worms! I have a lot I want to discuss with others who can do spoilery talk. :)

    2. Nooooooo! I saw the twist COMING from the beginning and now I'm grouchy!

    3. Oh BOO!! I'll have to check out your WFW post about it. I am a SUPER gullible reader, in that I rarely see big twists coming even if they are right in front of my face, so I can definitely see how others might not have the same experience that I did. A predictable twist can ruin a book for sure.

  3. Cady's narrative definitely takes some getting used to. The first time she talked about getting shot, it took me a moment to realize that she was talking about her feelings instead of things that were actually happening!!

    1. Yes exactly! I felt like it was too much, even once I realized what the author was doing.

  4. I haven't read this but I want to even though it can bug me when things are too convenient.

    1. It's definitely worth a read. I think you just need to have a YA hat on when you do it. I'd read a bunch of adult novels right beforehand and I think I was expecting a different style (especially after all the rave reviews I saw from adult-book-focused reviewers).

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