Book: We Were Liars
Author/Authoress: E. Lockhart
I thought the cover was pretty good. All that sunshine, swimming and water suggest a cutesy, light-hearted and fun summer read but the subtle shadows and the smudgy letters make sure we don’t misjudge the book by it’s cover. Also, the way that the whole cover is lightly blurry is pretty cool. Personally, I thought it was a representation of the narrator’s state of mind- confused and unable to remember the whole truth.
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.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE
My thoughts: So to keep the suspense alive, we’re not supposed to tell you anything about the plot. Too bad. This time I’m not going to follow the rules. It’s ridiculous to expect us to know whether we want to read a book or not without a decent blurb. And a few words strung together haphazardly does not a blurb make.
There’s actually not much to the plot. Basically, Cadence Sinclair is wealthy. She is loved (maybe because of the previous statement). She is one of the Sinclairs, a good-looking “old-money Democrat” family. They have names like Liberty, Taft, and Tipper (oh the heights of pretentiousness that can be reached are high indeed).They go to Ivy League schools. They have trust funds. They have sired a generation of children, the leader of which is Cadence. Cadence and her crew call themselves “The Liars.” The Liars are composed of her cousins Mirren, Johnny, and the outcast Indian love interest, Gat. All of them the same age.Every summer, the liars go to a private island where they spend their holidays in beach houses specifically built for their mothers. Every year, they spend their days playing in the sand, swimming in the sea and generally being lazy and having a good time. Until the summer when they’re all 15. That year, something horrible happens. Something which Cadence has no memory of but makes her sick anyways. She theorizes she was a victim of something so awful, her mind blocked it all out to protect itself. But Cadence is desperate to remember what happened that fateful summer. This book shows two summers in parallel. One happening in the present and the other in the form of flashbacks.
I had little to no patience for the characters. They were such cliché’s based solely on stereotypes. There was nothing original or interesting about them. Let’s start with the MC
Cadence Sinclair is a snobbish little hypocrite. From the very beginning, I was certain I would never see eye-to-eye with her. I was not proven wrong. There are precious few characters that can get away with calling their Mom ‘mummy’ without me losing any respect I could have had for them. Kids under the age of 10, people pretending to be snobby heiresses, snobby heiresses who exist for comedic purposes only and people from the Victorian era. Cadence falls into none of these categories. She actually is a snobby heiress. The type who speaks flippantly of Tiffany crystals, silverware, Mercedes cars and Harvard. The type who’s just rich enough (or going to be rich enough) to get away with not knowing the ‘help’s’ names and caring more about yellow labs than people. After the ‘accident’, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for her. Not only is it partially her own fault but she stops functioning like a normal human being after it. Her grades drop, she stops taking interest in any activity, she sends pathetic e-mails to her cousins asking about Gat and then sends even more pathetic e-mails to them pretending she doesn’t care. She falls into bouts of self-pity where she moans about her migraines (which apparently could end the world) and the fact that she had to go to Europe the previous summer instead of being allowed to go to the beach house. And rich enough for her to be hypocritical about her wealth, criticising her mother for depending on it, and giving away all her worldly possessions ‘to be charitable’ and ‘do some good in the world’.*Facepalm*
Despite the fact that Mirren and Johnny form one whole half of the ‘Liars’, they’re given disproportionately little screen-time (what do you call it in a book?). Apparently Mirren is candy-sweet and a bit of a romantic. Johnny is archetypical annoying male cousin, sometimes prone to annoyingness. Each of them appeared in what, four scenes each? Not nearly enough for the ‘supposed’ main characters.
Gat Patel was somewhat annoying. But at the same time, he was the character that seemed the most…real. He kind of reminded me of Gus from The Fault in Our Stars. He is self-aware. Too self-aware in a hopelessly pretentious way that some people think teenagers are like (and maybe we are…just a little). But he still feels authentic and less contrived than the other characters. I liked him. He is accepted into The Liars, but he’s not altogether accepted in the family. Because of his skin color, because of his lack of family money, he feels left out.
The Grandfather was another interesting character. Proud, manipulative and a bit bigoted. But no one dared to ever tell him that because he was in charge of all the money. He used to pit all of his daughters against each other, to make them prove that they deserved the inheritance and that they could make good use of it. He was a really twisted character but at times he could be a loving and fun grandfather, spontaneously taking his grandchildren on outings and tossing money everywhere. Did anyone else automatically think of King Lear?
The liars theorize that he became twisted after losing his wife and his manipulative behaviour was a cry for help, for his family to actually start acting like a family. For once (the first and last time ever) I agree with the liars.
More than anything else, it was the writing which killed this story. The whole book is in the point of view of the MC who had the incredibly infuriating tendency to write in disjointed prose with an overuse of commas and repetition of words. The sentences are fragmented and the main character is forever using long, running metaphors to describe everything.
And then I completely loathed (no, it’s not too strong of a word) the way she over dramatized everything. Take a look at this:
Then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell. The bullet hole opened wide and my heart rolled out of my rib cage and down into a flower bed. Blood gushed rhythmically from my open wound,
then from my eyes,
It took me forever to realize that she didn’t meant if literally; only figuratively and that her Dad didn’t really shoot her. But seriously, what else was I supposed to think?
Don’t read this unless you want spoilers. <spoiler> At the end, Cadence tells us about their plan for the fire. We’ve been told throughout the book that Cadence and Gat, at least, are very bright kids. I thought burning the house was a clever and beautiful twist, until Cadence said that they would light it from the inside. I repeat- from the inside. Who (especially supposedly ‘brilliant’ kids) would be stupid enough to light a mansion on the fire from the freaking INSIDE? And then they’re surprised that people died? People this stupid simply do not exist.
I think the whole ghost/ the MC went crazy thing was pretty good. Obviously, I knew that something was up throughout most of the book: (When the Liars hung back from welcoming Cadence on the docks, how they were always in Cuddlemere despite the fact it was ‘haunted’, how they never went anywhere and there was no interaction between them and anyone other than Cadence, etc.) but I was never able to actually put my finger on it. However, a lot of people said they saw the twist coming from a mile away. </spoiler over>
Gleck! That was the sound of me choking. This book is full of plotholes. The most obvious being the ending, but there was other, smaller stuff that really bugged me. The only reason this book got more than a one was because there wouldn’t have been much of a story without some of the obvious pitfalls.
Overall Rating: 2/5
Considering the fact this was supposed to be the ‘It’ contemporary book this year, I was pretty disappointed. But I never was a big E. Lockhart fan anyways, so I guess it’s all okay. If you’re able to get past the choppy and annoying writing style and the even more annoying main character, this book is actually a real page-turner. Full of suspense with a not-too-shabby plot and a decent (if slightly stupid) ending. Unfortunately, I could not and neither could most people. I would not recommend this book to anyone unless they would like to read it to make some sort of point (which type of point that would be, I have no idea).