Allison's Book Bag

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Posted on: January 30, 2015

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart has one of the most unusual plots in recent teen fiction. It is full of twists that will keep you guessing until the final revelation. The characters aren’t exactly the most typical either. The Sinclairs are not ever needy or ever wrong, but some of them are liars. The question is whether the story about a wealthy family and their hidden past works.

Because We Were Liars details the summer of a young girl who harbors a deep secret, the plot is difficult to talk about without sharing spoilers. For that reason, I am going to only indirectly discuss the plot. For the past two years, my husband and I have picked one young adult book for an annual shared read. This time around we chose We Were Liars. Anytime one reads a book and talks about it, the reading experience becomes enriched. Mysteries like We Were Liars lend themselves particularly well to discussions. Every day, my husband would declare, “I know what happened!” He proposed his theories. I proposed mine. The next time we saw each other I would ask, “What page are you on?” Then we tossed about more guesses. So it continued for the next several days that we read Lockhart’s 200-page suspense story, until we reached the satisfying conclusion. Then all the deliberate clues and red herrings made sense, leaving my husband and I happy with our selection.

Although I can’t more overtly discuss the plot, I can talk about the characters. Cadence is the oldest, the heir to the family fortune. She spends every summer on a private island with her cousins, Johnny and Mirren. Her parents’ divorce shakes her world. So does the arrival of Gat, with whom she quickly falls in love to the dismay of the adults. But We Were Liars is not solely a love story. Instead it’s about the summer when the eldest cousins were fifteen, when something happened. Cadence remembers being discovered at night by the adults in shallow water, wearing only a camisole and underwear. In the wake of the events of this mysterious summer, she dyed her hair black and developed migraines. Although the rest of her tight-knit group remain evasive about the summer, I also like them. Gat inspires Cadence to look beyond her wealth. He wants to stop evil. Most of all, Gat wants to heal Cadence. Johnny on the other hand wants to own a fancy car and art and clothes. Yet for all his concern about riches, he gives up a college fund to stand up for his principles. Most unique of all, he wants to build fish out of Legos! And then there’s Mirren. She hasn’t decided what to believe, but knows she wants to travel and fall in love. She’s bossy and irritable, but like the others feels regret and a desire to be a better person.

By now, you’ve probably figured out that I like both the plot and the characters of We Were Liars. There are other parts that captivated me too. For example, there is Lockhart’s use of fairy tales to convey the theme. Even when the tales were unfamiliar to me, I enjoyed trying to figure out why Lockhart picked the tales she did, why she placed them where she did, and what I could learn from them. All of them have a reoccurring theme of the conflict between love and wealth. By love, I mean that of family, friends, and boyfriends. As I said above, We Were Liars is more than a love story. What else it’s about, however, is something that you’ll have to discover on your own.

We Were Liars depends hugely on twists. Whether it’ll stand up to repeated reads after the final revelation is something I can’t guarantee. Already though, I find myself twitching to flip back to page one. Now that I know what happens, I’d like to read at a slower pace to savor Lockhart’s figurative-rich style. It’d also be fun to see what clues stand out to me, now that the story is no longer a mystery. Beyond that, all I can say is that We Were Liars entertained my husband and I from start to finish. What is your reaction to it?

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

1 Response to "We Were Liars by E. Lockhart"

All reviews of We Were Liars mention the “satisfying twist” of the ending. Often you will read a murder mystery (which We Were Liars is not — this is just an analogy) and when you discover whodunnit it, you feel like the ending was arbitrary and that the killer could easily have been another character entirely, if the author had just filled in the blanks differently. That is not the case with We Were Liars. There are enough clues that you might be able to figure out part of it, but even if the ending comes as a complete surprise you won’t feel misled. Instead, the pieces will all come together and it will be like a light turning on in your head. Yes, there’s a twist, but the story is really about Cadence, her family, and how she deals with and recovers from her fifteenth summer.

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