Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Publication Date: 13th May 2014
Rating: 3/5 stars
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.
I had heard a lot about this book before I actually decided to read it. It came up a lot on my Tumblr feed, and heaps of people have been asking for it at work. Yet I still wasn’t sure what to expect from it.
The story focuses on an extremely rich family, and the eldest grandchild, Cadence, in particular. At times, it is really difficult to believe that people actually live in this way – with a private island where they spend their summers. This family may look perfect from the outside, but there has been an accident. Cadence was involved – she knows that she hit her head quite badly, but no one will tell her what else happened.
The book focuses on Cadence’s return to the island after her accident. She has been kept away for a few years and is looking forward to seeing her best friends, the Liars again – two cousins and a step-cousin. She is in love with the step-cousin, but her grandfather disapproves because he is half-Indian. Lockhart notes the resemblance to Heathcliff.
The story jumps back and forth between the present summer and the summer of the accident. The flow of the novel was really good – I never got bored of either perspective before it switched over. There is a lot of talk about the second generation’s obsession with money – after the death of the matriarch, the daughters squabbled over who was entitled to what. This is primarily what annoys the Liars – in their world of privilege, their parents can’t see past their own desires. With the expectation of their parents’ wealth, the children of money never made anything of themselves and now need to ensure an inheritance to continue living the lives to which they have become accustomed after their father’s death.
It is really hard to discuss this book without giving away the biggest spoiler of them all. There is a massive twist, where we finally discover what caused Candace’s injury and memory loss, as well as what caused the wider family’s trauma. It is a pretty interesting look at acts of teenage rebellion and the way children cope when they have too much time, too much entitlement and parents obsessed with money.
The twist was unexpected for me, though I have heard that some people found it a bit predictable. What I most enjoyed from this book was the glimpse into the lives of the wealthy, and realising that they have problems too – though maybe not quite as severe as in this example!
While it wasn’t my favourite YA novel of the month, it was probably my favourite set in real time, in the real world. It was enjoyable but not exceptionally captivating. It was sad, very sad, yet it didn’t make me cry. It is still a pleasant read, particularly good for the beach or other holiday reading, but probably not a book I will go back to.