Book Reviews

We Were Liars

By E. Lockhart               Allen and Unwin 2014           YA fiction

Score: 8/10                             Genre: Dark teen romance, Suspense

Cadence spends her summer breaks on the Sinclair family’s private island along with her mother, her grandparents and the families of her two aunts.

Cady her cousins Johnny and Mirren and the intriguing, handsome Gat form the band of summer friends called ‘The Liars.’ As they spend lazy summers swimming, boating and playing tennis Cady falls in love with the outsider Gat. Together the Liars observe the so-called ‘beautiful’ Sinclair family implode. Rivalry between the adult sisters spurred by the manipulative elitist grandfather turn family gatherings into ugly feuds.

Cady’s fifteenth summer will change everything. An accident, a head injury, and amnesia leave her grappling for answers. She aches to see the ‘Liars’ again and begs her mother to let her return to Beechwood island in her seventeenth summer. Will the Liars help her unravel her confusion? Will Gat still love her?

It is hard to discuss this book without giving spoilers – but I’ll try. Lockhart plays with language form, timelines, and character voices in such a clever way that the pages fly by. The setting of Beechwood Island with the four houses for the four families (map included) is a fantastic claustrophobic space to tell a dark tale. So why didn’t I give this 9 or even 10? Possibly because I felt a bit too manipulated by the plot twists. Also, I’m not one for ‘happily ever after’ but this ending is gut-wrenchingly irredeemable. I’m not sure I liked the feeling (call me a wuss) even though I appreciated the writing that led me to despair.

Recommend for: YA writers and teenagers. This may seem self-evident – it is YA fiction, but some YA’s have more general appeal. I think I would have appreciated this book more if I was an angsty teenager.

Use for writers: Where do I begin?

Creative sentence/paragraph structure: Occasional short repetitive sentences pack emotional punch. Particularly when describing the facade of the Sinclair clan. “We are Sinclairs. No-one is needy. No-one is wrong.”

Authentic and interesting teen voices: Cady’s feelings of love, pain and bitterness are shown in a raw and poetic voice. Johnny is flippant and likeable, Gat is serious and brooding and Mirren is sweet and insecure.

Setting: atmospheric, confined but never over-described.

First person present tense: creates intimacy and tension.

Changes in text form: emails, lists and my favourite; Cady’s increasingly bitter fairy-tale retellings – very clever and ominous.

2 thoughts on “We Were Liars”

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