This month our Selective Collective book is “We Were Liars,” a much-hyped new novel by author e. lockhart. It’s our turn to write the review, which was hard, considering saying too much about this book could ruin it for some readers. Hope we are spoiler free enough to pique your interest without giving too much away!
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.
It’s hard to review e. lockhart’s “We Were Liars” out of fear of revealing anything that might spoil the plot’s big reveals for a reader. In fact, merely saying there’s a twist is probably doing all of you who haven’t read the book a disservice, so I’m going to just concentrate on other aspects of the book and not overshare about the plot (who wants that in a review, anyway?).
The writing is excellent of course, as lockhart is a methodical, thorough writer. Whereas the writing in YA books can sometimes feel rushed or barely edited, lockhart’s prose is precise and layered (even when it seems like scattered — for a reason! — stream-of-consciousness). Lockhart’s the kind of writer who can be funny, political, silly, and literary (pay attention to the “King Lear” references) all at once. This book has loads of sociopolitical and class commentary (it takes place in a Hyannis Port type of private New England island, with a very WASPy family at its core), a central multicultural romance, and a heartbreaking exploration of how families can fail one another but eventually heal. There’s a lot going on in just 240 pages.
Cady, the protagonist, isn’t the most likable (or reliable) narrator. She is closed off and confused and self-absorbed, because she has no real idea what the hell happened to her in a mysterious accident no one will talk about or explain to her. The only thing Cady wants to do is reconnect with the three people she knows best in the world: her two cousins (each the child of one of her mother’s sisters) and the summer boy (her aunt’s Indian partner’s nephew) she grew up loving.
Lockhart’s exploration of summer bonds among a rarefied clique of patrician teens isn’t exactly original (lots of books follow rich kids in swanky beach towns), but her inclusion of the narrative’s central character of color, a deep-thinking activist who is acutely aware of his outsider status, is fascinating to us. We actually wish the book had been more about him than about Cady, who is difficult to connect with for most of the book!
If there hadn’t been so much buzz about “We Were Liars,” we probably would consider it an A level read, but for all the hype, there was something about the story that felt underwhelming. We’d still give it a starry B+, but we weren’t blown away by it like we were by “The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks” (another book, we might add, about ridiculously privileged teens).
Make sure to check out everyone else in the Selective Collective’s features, especially the Author profile + Giveaway if you want a chance to win a copy of the book!