Book Title: We Were Liars (Standalone)
Author: E. Lockhart
Number of pages: 227
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.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
(re: Goodreads @ We Were Liars by E. Lockhart)
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr spoiler-less review:
– If you are dying to read this book, forgo every review and just read.
– Putting on that detective hat may ruin the reading experience. The “big twist” isn’t earth shattering if readers can uncover the clues.
– The narrative follows an unreliable narrator and often reads with a staggered-yet-lyrical bounce. The descriptive prose is vivid but often overbearing and too dramatic—teenagers don’t think/speak the way this novel imagines them.
– The plot centers on a mystery and how the protagonist cannot recall a pivotal moment that changed her family. Everything else is filler content; basically tom-foolery, eating lots of food, and romantic dilemmas.
– Themes (money and power, corruption, racism and discrimination, misogyny, etc.) are lacklustre in development and add limited commentary to inspire change.
To eat that scone or not.
A fair-skinned girl; a boy quite the opposite.
Three musketeers, three French hens, a BLT sandwich. Three.
A skeptical hat. An ill-conceived plan. A lot of hype.
No one likes the truth.
Truth can save you.
Truth is boring.
Read it (or don’t).
And if anyone asks you how it ends, please consider the TRUTH.
In another world, this may have at least made it past the first round of proofing. (Maybe not, maybe not, maybe not.)
Disclaimer: Potential spoilers inherent to this review from here onward.
When shit hits the fan, it’s supposed to splatter everywhere and I’m supposed to think, “what the fuhhhhhhh?” Yeah, well, too bad. I put on my skeptical hat and didn’t even plug in the fan. I am simply not impressed with this read and hype isn’t even a factor. The twist was not omfg-wtf-is-happening worthy to redeem the rest of the book so all I’m left with is plotless writing, an unreliable narrator, awkward-poetry-esqe passages, and too much [dare I say] upper-class, white people problems.
Also, why is We Were Liars listed under the thriller genre? I am baffled. It is far from being tense and suspenseful; nor did it surprise me. Mysterious, realistic, young-adult fiction—sure, I can buy that. Thriller? Nope.
The Sinclairs are a wealthy family who spend each summer together at a private getaway. In this paradise are three mothers, each with their own home and family. They are seclusion, unity, vanity, and corruption. They are the Sinclairs, they are family. And their kids? They are known as the Liars. One tragic event will open a rift in the family—smiling outside; drama within. Everyone is on edge. But for Cadence, she can’t seem to remember what happened the night everything changed, and no one wants her to know.
The protagonist is cleverly unreliable. It is to the extent that you should always question the motive behind how the story develops and the intent behind its messages. Not to mention that the entire plot focuses on Cadence trying to remember the events that led to her accident. So doesn’t it make sense to put on your detective hat and try to ponder and understand what happened to her too? Sounds pretty fair to me. But let’s backtrack to an earlier comment: the awkward-poetry-esqe passages and how it droned on repetition and a choppy thought process. The sum of these things, including her continual distraught and migraines to recollect the past, makes for a narrator you should be incredibly skeptical to believe as she navigates through the story. Even if you have a hunch—you should be prodding the thought with what-if analyses. What-if x? What-if y? What-if z? What-if xyz? I love a book that makes you think passionately about the why. I have a great appreciation if the book breaks those confines and really surprises me. This is where I found difficulties in actually enjoying the read because truthfully, I was imagining possibilities and thought, “I wonder if this happens because of reason xyz, or this, or this…” And shit—it did.
But you know what the caveat is? Sometimes a good read is still a good read even if the plot is easily predictable. I just didn’t get that feeling with We Were Liars because I needed that twist to punch me in the face—to validate all the nonsense that was pretentious tom-foolery—but it didn’t, and so I continue to lament.
Returning to the prose: have you ever had a terrible headache or just been in serious pain where you simply can’t think straight? And between all the blips of expletives, you actually had a coherent thought process somewhere in your brain but it’s all broken up in your mind? I feel like that was the intent
she erratically wrote sections with a staggered,
Was it annoying?
Did it work?
This narrative formatting transfers over to how metaphorically descriptive Lockhart chose to address the emotions felt by the characters. It was a bit overly dramatic at times because no one in their right mind would emote and phrase words and talk the way they did but it did paint a vivid image, I guess, if you’re into this sort of thing:
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,
What is that you ask? Why, it’s Cadence talking through her emotions! No further comment on how misled I was for the longest time.
Setting? I’ll just say this book is food porn for any foodie alike. It’s seriously stupid how much they talk about eating. Moreover, once you factor in how I really feel about this book…it just made me hangry (that is hungry + angry).
“Cadence Sinclair: pity party for one” is basically Cady in a nutshell and others called her out on her shit (thankfully). But perhaps you cannot engage her behaviour without the other Liars. Here we have another book where I enjoyed reading the supporting characters a hell of lot more than the protagonist but alas they are underdeveloped. I liked Gat. Mirren was okay. Johnny was superb. But Cadence was annoying, naive, pretentious, ignorant, oh dear the list could go on really. And look, she’s the unreliable narrator we have to suffer through. I loathed following her yammering. But I must persist—I must endure. Because if you’re trying to up-vote this posh white-people higher living then perhaps it might be an accurate portrayal. I should also mention that Cady doesn’t ever fault a lovey-dovey romance if the guy being crushed on cheats on his girlfriend with you because as teenagers, who cares? Cady, Cady, Cady…I will just let this sink in and not go any further with this. (Literally: -________________________-….)
However, the character I must discuss is Gatwick Patil. He’s Indian-American and only a nephew (I think?) to one the aunts. Leave it to the only character of coloured-skin with dialogue to make grandiose commentary regarding the lifestyle of this pompous family and to challenge Cadence and what she has grown up with. He is, I suppose, the only character that I really sympathized for. A nobody, an outsider, a Liar—Gat is a different kind of teenager—he bears a burden few on the island would understand and hides his true self from his friends every summer. He is a lesser individual who speaks up to inspire change only to be shut down again-and-again. Oh Gat, why did you have to be friends with Cady?
One of the main (if not the biggest) problems I had with this book is how I’m led to believe that these kids were raised from wealth; elitist and beautiful inside-and-out yet they all have no lick of logic when they act on what they set to achieve. What the hell is this shit? Everything is so ill-conceived and goes over and beyond youth and inexperience. The drive to carry out certain escapades comes with ambition, emotion, and logic. They had the first two down pat, sure, but logic? Nope, nope, nope. Like, for the sake of spoilers, I am not going to delve into this but once you come across the “wtf” moment, I hope you will realize how unjustified the idiocy really is.
The power in this cast is really in how family dynamics is portrayed under the veil of duress from holding money above everyone’s head. What’s more is that Lockhart used a lot of whimsical narratives involving a king and three daughters. This occurred throughout the narrative to comparatively juxtapose the plot against how the father felt about his daughters and how the sisters between themselves. It was neat, and perhaps, very much in Sinclair fashion.
(I need to take a breather before this one.)
Should you remedy the symptom or the problem? What if both are too far gone from being fixed? We Were Liars opens the commentary that money is power and power corrupts. But when throwing family into the dilemma—is the persisting issue a family matter or is it still invariably a money problem?
In today’s civil society, there’s a persistence of gender inequality relating to how valuation deserves equal treatment. Women should, by the same merits of men, be equally free to live as their own person and be treated as such. What I don’t exactly understand is how this book perpetuates the stigma that women are incapable of taking hold of their own lives. That it’s okay to be bound by higher living and expectations that trust funds and a lineage of wealth will carry them through life. That with a rich family, the only tough decisions they’ll make in life is what to eat for dinner (which I doubt they’ll even cook) or what furnishings to purchase. I guess being a housewife (or princess?) in life has its perks. So go on Disney princesses, find that prince charming and he’ll take care of you forever. Dude…really?
This panders on being borderline misogynistic as this central male figure (the granddad) assumes control of everything despite spiraling down the madness associated with grieving. Defy him and he can write you off. Speak to him with words he wants to hear or he will not listen. Relinquish control of one’s livelihood or endure the perils of continual threats of losing power and wealth. These are but examples of how much dominance one man holds and how much genuine respect and value he has for his daughters. Or perhaps I have it all wrong; and what I see as misogynistic is actually something else and someone should inform me otherwise. I may not understand this rich lifestyle they lead, but I’m not believing in anything positive from what I’m reading into.
I mean, consider if the variables changed. It is not a father but a husband; not a daughter, but a wife. Is it still acceptable to denigrate the worth of these individuals on the basis that they seemingly need to sell each other short, burning all ties amongst one another, for the sake of one man’s attention and monetary value? C’mon now, at least make an attempt at resolving these kinds of social commentary.
This whole dirty money situation that breaks families apart ties well into the skin colour debate as there was limited consequence to protect your own kin (white-skinned, for clarity) if you have the resources to be put in the right place. How easy and ethical it must have been to write something off and make people look the other way when you have the cash to flaunt around. But God forbid a darker skinned individual takes the same actions do we ascertain the fault in their kind without question. Racism and social discrimination is a problem, and young love isn’t grounded in making positive waves of change when the possibility is so real in becoming ostracized by the fundamentals of family values and the community in which you grew up in. I’m not saying that characters shouldn’t be the change they wish to see but there is so much more than magically believing in the good intentions of others through love conquering all as a realistic rationale when there are so many nuanced variables in the equation of life.
Not to mention the whole socio-cultural divide between white-versus-coloured skins. You know how dumb it sounds to say, “don’t take this the wrong way, but…”? The point is: prompting what you say with that statement doesn’t make the insult any worse. Sure some characters didn’t prompt it, but their egregious actions spoke of it in spades. They aren’t overtly racist but will gladly adhere to some standard or lesser evil to save face. Like, really? (Pro-tip: it does not make you any less racist.) See, I voted for Obama, so I can’t be that discriminatory—he says as he stares through you—but I’m not going to ever regard you or your family by your names. It isn’t worded like this in the book but it sure feels that way. This is then left open and never challenged. Sigh, sigh, sigh.
And then there’s the issue of how this book handles mental awareness. The main takeaway I got is to treat individuals suffering from mental anguish with normality; not feeling bad for them (sounds great, actually), but also remembering that they’re secretly hurting and insane with deeper meaning in what they say or do (wait, what?). Unlike the previous two thematic concerns, the intent behind the ambiguity allows the narrative to end on a strong note; one that I was okay with (I guess).
Overall, these kinds of realistic case studies are impressionable and perhaps meaningful life lessons. So give me validation and reasoning. Make me believe that even the top one-percent of citizens can inspire change—is that too much to ask for?
Perhaps I should take off my skeptical hat and just read blind. Maybe then I would have been hit with a bigger wtf moment. But no, I can’t do that. It would be unfair to tamper with transparency and it would be even more unjust to feign ignorance to the content which felt off-putting. So yes—I feel like I’m doing a disservice to everyone who seemed to love this book. Someone needs to explain to me what was so magical about this reading experience. Usually my dislike comes with being perplexed with a read. But that isn’t the case with We Were Liars. I did not care for the “twist of meaning” ambiguity because at the end of everything, I just lost a sense of care for where I was going over-and-beyond the limited joy I felt from this read. I was not marred by hype. I was not informed of any details. I went in blank, and I came out blank. I feel kind of jilted, actually. So perhaps this book may stick around with me—but just not for the same reasons as everyone else.
And this is the truth.
// Review ends here
I really wanted to like this. True story: I blindly voted for Lockhart’s We Were Liars to win best YA Fiction on Goodreads. Man…lesson learned. I feel like I need to one day reread this book because I have this thought that I’m not “getting” what a lot of people seem to fawn and gush over. I do not know. I may never know.
38 thoughts on “[Review] We Were Liars – E. Lockhart”
I feel really old. I totally had to Google wtf “tl;dr” means. Haha. I’m definitely not reading this one. I’ve seen too many reviews like yours and the writing irritates me. If the whole book is like that, I’m pretty sure it would drive me insane. Good review though!
Haha, I’m sure there are new terms coming out every day which I don’t even know of either.
I’m surprised you say that you’ve seen a lot of reviews like mine when all I seem to see are glowing reviews where everyone was extremely blown way [more positive words go here…].
The staggered-ness of the writing is definitely feels like it’st thrown in wherever. I guess you get used to it though (maybe?).
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Most of the reviews I’ve seen are glowing ones, but I’ve seen quite a few ones like yours. Enough to put me off of the book.
Oh haha. Yeah I was certainly surprised by the positive feedback in regards to all of my negativity regarding WWL.
Perhaps one day, you may pick it up on a whim. And when that day comes, I’ll be excited to see what you have to say!
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It’s a good thing I didn’t buy the book, because I’m pretty sure I would have demanded a refund. I haven’t read it yet, and from your review, I doubt I’ll read it.
Hey if anything, you could just borrow it and see how it goes after page 1. I am full of nonsense–don’t listen to me!
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This review!! Best review of this book ever. I’m glad to see someone else disliked this book as much as me. You are so right about so many things. I unfortunately fell to the hype and was very disappointed. I wish I could get those hours back but oh well. Thank you for your honest review!
LOL thank you. I tried not to be too angry or throw in too much snark haha. I don’t think I’ll ever understand the appeal of this book, but hey, to each their own right?
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Heheh, Nice review. 🙂
Even thought I’m on the total Opposite , I LOVED it… and I cried and everything 0.o , I do get where you’re coming from with this and even though I liked it I can relate to some of your feelings.
I’m glad you enjoyed it for my sake as well! It’s been a few days since I finished this read and I’m still scratching my head with this one, trying to make sense of how to assign a star-rating to this book. Pretty frustrating stuff.
HAHA I wouldn’t worry Stef, I don’t know what it means either. I only found out what Bae stands for today! I thought it was just a new way of saying Boo (as in Beau).
Anyways… You’ve got me questioning my review Joey! I have to say I didn’t read into this book as much as you did with themes and whatnot (then again I rarely do), and while there were elements that annoyed me, I found it to be a decent read. Not quite mind blowing, but decent. And I didn’t guess the twist so I found that good – but I did want to reread it immediately to see if there were clues I missed, or if it added up. But I didn’t. Which may, or may not, say something…
Wait, what? I’m 80% certain that bae is another way to say “boo/beau”. Now i must peruse Urban Dictionary.
If I have made you question something (anything), then I have done my job! I think now that you know the ending, when you re-read it, I imagine you’ll see what I mean by the little nuances in the writing that point to Cady being Cady.
Yea it is, but I didn’t know it stood for “before anyone else”.
You’ve definitely made me question my opinion of it. I read it and enjoyed it. But after reading your review I’m questioning why I enjoyed it. Was it actually well written, or is it just because the whole premise was so new to me that I was pleasantly surprised by it? Not sure what you mean with that end bit – “that point to Cady being Cady”? R x
I won’t say too much in case others are reading.
But with how things ended (re: big reveal and last paragraphs of the book), there are hints that may have you questioning the arc-building as it relates to propelling you into the direction of why/how things resulted in the “unexpected twist” (to the extent that it wouldn’t read as unexpected). Does that make sense?
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I agree with you that the twist did not make up for the rest of the story. I don’t really get why everyone loves this book so much either, and shame on you for blind voting! haha
I had a hunch that it was going to win–so I voted for it anyways haha. I mean, everyone around me seemed to REALLY enjoy it (I only looked at “star ratings” to determine this) so i felt like it was one of those books that could/would not fail me.
…I was so wrong.
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Next time, remember that 50 Shades of Gray was a best seller. Some people may love it, but that doesn’t exactly mean it’s well written or coherent haha 🙂
I think for me it was also largely due to not knowing what to expect based on the blurb alone. Hype is one thing; but perhaps the slightest bit of curiosity was another. I just sometimes question my sanity if I’m at fault for being the 1% of haters LOL.
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This is such an amazing review of this book! I really enjoyed the book when I read it, mostly because I didn’t see the ending coming AT ALL. Perhaps I just wasn’t reading into it enough… or I’m just really bad at putting together the clues! I do agree with many of your points, however, and will keep these criticisms in mind if I do reread We Were Liars in the future.
I think now that you know the ending, you might understand where I’m coming from when I mention that there are little clues laden throughout that not only question the reliability of Cadence as a narrator but it up-votes that path towards how things are revealed (if that made sense?).
But thank you for your kind words–I certainly try to inspire thinking!
This review is great! I wasn’t a fan of this book either. Way too much of that faux literary writing and not enough done with any of the themes brought up. The “twist” didn’t make up for any of the rest of the story and I spent too much time being all “yeah right”.
I find it hard to take off my skeptical hat too, but I dont think it’s a bad thing!
I think leaving the skeptical hat on for mystery’s in particular is a no-brainer. I mean, if you think about it, how is it possible to read into these kinds of books any other way–to not question everything? It’s like saying that I’ll go “watch a movie” and leave my eyes shut throughout and only listen to the audio (okay, perhaps that was a bad comparison LOL).
But I too was sighing and metaphorically bashing my head onto the nearest hard surface when things went awry.
I don’t know if it was worse that debatable hype made me read this book several months later or if I waited this long to not enjoy it…
Exactly! These sort of books are made to be viewed with skepticism, too bad we were skeptical about the wrong things 😛
Oh the hype for this book was insane, that’s the only reason I read it too… I wonder how many this is true for. Plus it seems like some are too scared to say they didn’t love it and risk being on the unpopular team!
That’s a good point–about being on the unpopular team. I wouldn’t say that I wasn’t a bit hesitant to post these comments (because I’m just a regular schmuck) but at the same time I don’t know how you could throw away honesty to [perhaps] fit in with everyone else.
Have no fear: you’ll always see me waving that unpopular opinion flag if need be!
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Your review made me smile. Not because I feel the same way (I actually quite liked it) but just because your review is 100% Joey. 🙂
My favorite part of this book IS the writing style. I loved that this story was told in free verse prose. I loved how that allowed me as the reader to really connect with Cady, even though she is completely unreliable. As a teenager, I wrote journals filled with this type of life interpretation–this free-form lyrical poetry prose. And I think that is why I loved this story so much.
I do agree with your interpretation of themes. I did think that the money/family theme went even further. The third generation of this family (the liars) realized how stupid everything was and wanted to change things. I thought that added more depth to the “we are rich kids” plot and made it more “we don’t want to be our parents.” But maybe that’s just me.
I want to reread this book too. I read it extremely quickly the first time around. I will be curious to see if my opinion of the book changes with my second read.
As always, #Mande 4evr. ❤
LOL I’m happy to hear you can recognize that it is 100% authentic Joey complaining going on.
Ah–that is a fair justification to how you might have connected with Cady whereas I couldn’t at all!
I think by furthering that “we don’t want to be our parents” path, I’d be really hard to believe that strictly because of how things ended up happening for them. I bet you anything their mothers would have planned a better usurping of papa’s money if they tried. These kids were just illogical to me personally.
I want to but then I also don’t want to re-read it. I feel like I’ll just experience the pain and disappointment all over again haha.
I super hated this book. Trite, pretentious, and ultimately–for me the worst book sin–dull. Since I knew there was some big reveal at the end I couldn’t help trying to guess what it was, and since there just weren’t that many options, I guessed right. And as you say, the book really doesn’t work if you aren’t slapped in the face by it at the end. The stylistic tics made me weary. So many glowing reviews of this one–so glad to find someone else who thought it just didn’t work.
Haha, I’m frankly surprised with how much support this overly negative review has received. Or maybe people are just too kind to tell me I’m wrong (doubtful). But yeah, I don’t know what book people read because the book I read was everything you said and more.
To each their own though!
Awesome review Joey! I remember a friend of mine recommended this book to me few months ago. But I’ve seen enough negative reviews like yours. So I doubt I’ll ever read this book.
That’s quite surprising when before I posted this review, I was at a 80/20 (good/bad) comments haha. Perhaps you may surprise yourself, one day, and pick this up on a whim (like I basically did).
I totally agree with this.
Haha–another addition to the “I-don’t-understand-the-hype-in-this-book-like-why-” team!