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.
If there’s one thing I have to say about this book it’s that We Were Stupid would have been a much more appropriate title than We Were Liars. I was more convinced of the characters’ stupidity than them calling themselves the Liars. Perhaps the title with regards to liars was supposed to raise intrigue. Indeed, it did. I was very curious about the book. In the end though, I was sorely disappointed.
What aggravates me the most as a reader is being led on. Actually, no, being led on generally aggravates me as a person. That definitely contributed to my annoyance by the time I was done reading. See, there was all the hype about “the twist” that elevated We Were Liars so much whenever I read reviews.
When I finally got to “the twist” I just thought, “That’s it?” I was nowhere near excited. Quite the opposite, I was confused — confused that this is what apparently stirred so much hype and endless excitement.
Half-way through the book I started questioning the whole setting. I went into the book knowing nothing, except that there would be a grand twist. Yet before everything was revealed, I had already figured out what that twist was. And it wasn’t because I made a million guesses, thereby ensuring at least one guess would be right. No. I guessed it. When I guessed it, I wanted to stop reading, knowing that if I was right, I would hate the book. I continued anyway.
One thing I will divulge about We Were Liars is that Cadence suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Lockhart used this to her advantage to create an unreliable narrator. I appreciated Lockhart’s experimental approach to the book. That appreciation however stopped there. While the book captured the dreamy moments okay, it failed at believably portraying lucid moments. The grounding in reality was completely missing, which drastically reduced its impact on me.View Spoiler »It thoroughly annoyed me that going into the book I expected contemporary fiction when that’s not exactly what I got. I was down with the unreliable narrator, thinking that’s an under-utilised device and I was interested in where this would lead. Plus Cadence was clearly suffering from PTSD and at least partial amnesia. Trouble is, realism eluded <i>We Were Liars</i>.
What riled me up was that when it came to the resolution, all the other main characters turned out to be ghosts. It’s like those essays my language teachers always told us to avoid writing: “She woke up and realized it was all just a dream.”
The point at which I was 100% sure about my twist-predictions was when Cadence explained the plans for burning down the house. It was crystal clear to me that only she, the person on the ground floor, would survive. The rest would end up dead. I wish I had been wrong because like I said, I hate being led on. « Hide Spoiler
To make matters worse, the writing style was incredibly jumpy. I didn’t like that at all, although I concede that it was somewhat reflective of the narrator’s state of mind. She was after all a very unreliable narrator.
Ultimately, the whole book came off as a pity party. I couldn’t bring myself to care for any of the characters. The potential talking points of race and class also fell flat. It could’ve been explored more but wasn’t. Such a shame, really.