Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart, is described as a “modern, sophisticated suspense novel” about a girl and her extended family who spend their summers on their own personal island. Cadence wasn’t allowed to return to the island last summer, and now she’s determined to find out what happened to her two years ago.

On the night of Thursday, April 23rd, still reeling from Grey’s Anatomy spoilers, I read We Were Liars in one sitting. This book has had a ton of buzz since it came out last year. I’ve been meaning to read it for a few months now, so I grabbed it when I happened to see it at the library. I don’t know how anyone could possibly discuss this book without spoilers, so spoilers behind the cut.

Objectively, I can see the novel’s strengths. There’s an intense feeling of mystery that pervades the book and makes you want to find out what happened. Once you know the ending, so many random details suddenly make sense and the foreshadowing is really solid throughout.

Subjectively, this book made me so mad. While the fire itself was a more unique detail, this book fell back on such a huge cliche. I was disappointed that the ending and the big twist weren’t something more original than “they’ve been dead the whole time.” This is not to say that this twist never works. There was a great twist in the same vein in The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, but I thought it was executed to greater effect because you don’t know that there’s going to be a reveal. I would have liked We Were Liars better if the book had just taken place that summer two years ago, instead of reflecting back, so I wouldn’t have been beaten over the head with the fact that there would be a twist.

Furthermore, I usually need an anchor when reading a book. I can stomach dis-likable or morally compromised characters so long as I can get attached to something. Intelligence, love, and sacrifice can redeem a character, or I can push through a book where I dislike the main character so long as I really like someone else. The Sinclairs are all manipulative and materialistic, so my anchor through this book was Gat. Clever, political, wonderful Gat. Finding out that he had been dead for two years squashed what little interest I had in this family.

On top of that, the writing style had too many heavy-handed metaphors for my taste. And the last name Sinclair was a bit on the nose. “Clair” in French means “clear” or “light,” and “sin” in Spanish means “without.” And then there’s the actual English word “sin.” So I started thinking of the name as “clear sin” or “less clear.” I don’t know whether this was intentional (who goes so far as to break down the parts of a name and translate them?), but it bothered me.

I give this book 3.5 stars. I can recognize that parts of this book were really solid, but this is a book with a make-or-break ending and it just didn’t work for me. I have a feeling I would like it more if I read it at a different point in my life. Like on a day when I wasn’t already destroyed by Grey’s Anatomy.

Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacourte Press
My rating: ☆☆☆½ (3.5 stars)
Recommended for: Anyone looking for quick read with decent pay-off, and anyone who doesn’t mind big metaphors in description

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