by E. Lockhart
Privilege. Water. Family. Secrets. Plot Twist.
These are the first words that come to mind when thinking about We Were Liars.
The “beautiful Sinclair family,” with their private island near Martha’s Vineyard, lives in a world unknown to most readers. Yet, the summer swims, family solidarity, and keeping secrets are experiences many can understand. It’s this fine balance between getting a glimpse into a different lifestyle and being able to personally relate to the characters’ emotions that makes Lockhart’s book an attractive read.
Lockhart does a marvelous job developing characters so unique and detailed that you begin to feel as if they are people you know. Between the confused narrative of Cadence, Gat’s reflective altruism, and the cheerful denial of the aunts – the characters of We Were Liars are complex and realistic. Unlike the characters of other young adult literature, the personalities in We Were Liars are not archetypes. Each of Lockhart’s characters face their experiences across the emotional spectrum, mimicking the human capacity to be angry, glad, and sad all at the same time.
A Book For All Ages
One could go so far as to claim that We Were Liars is not a book solely for the young adult audience. At no point in the story did the plot, characters or writing style feel juvenile (which can sometimes be a concern). E. Lockhart’s writing conveys a talent to write easily enough for a tween to understand the complexities of loss, memory and love, but also the ability to simultaneously convey the sense of an “adult” conversation happening beneath the surface. We Were Liars is an appealing read for any age.
Pain and the Unforeseen Ending
There is very little to be said about the plot without giving away the ending. That said, We Were Liars covers the gambit of unfortunate occurrences. Divorce, death, addiction – the list goes on. Although able to relate to such events as sad and unwelcome at the human level, the privilege of the Sinclairs on their private island and their distanced responses of denial make it difficult to empathize with them. They do not address their suffering, so why should the reader?
But there is pain. So much pain. Lockhart challenges the read to sympathize the privileged family through Cadence’s narrative. Her tears and quasi-melodramatic descriptions of her feelings as if they are gunshots or bleeding wounds, bring you into her suffering. No longer does the tragedy of the family seem distant, but real and authentic. When Cadence’s mother demands her to “be normal now…because you are. Because you can be,” as a reader, you want to shout back “let her feel and let her express it!” Instead, the characters continue on pushing away the suffering to keep up appearances for privilege’s sake.
Obviously this forced denial can only last so long…
As you get closer to the reveal of the plot twist the narrative becomes hazy. You begin to experience Cadence’s confusion, just as you embodied her heartbreak and loss. And then, progressively, Lockhart lifts the veil of fog for the reader and Cadence simultaneously. The truth becomes revealed and you are left feeling like a trespasser witnessing the gaping wound that is the Sinclair family secret.
I really enjoyed reading We Were Liars. As my first audiobook, I chose We Were Liars because I thought it would be a lighthearted, young adult novel to pass the time away during a six hour drive. Instead, the book enthralled me and caused me to drive slower once I realized I’d reach my destination before the end of the story.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in a suspenseful exploration of human emotion.
Have you read We Were Liars? What did you think?