We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were LiarsInformation

Goodreads: We Were Liars
Series: None
Source: Gift
Published: May 13, 2014

Official Summary

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.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Review

We Were Liars would be utterly forgettable if it were not for the final twist.

The story follows teenage Cadence Sinclair Eastman, daughter of the wealthy, privileged Sinclair clan, as she spends a summer on her family’s private island, hanging out with her cousins and trying to remember what happened last summer on the island when she woke up wet on the sand, dressed only in her underwear, with no memory of why she was there.

One might assume that part of the draw of a story that takes place on a private family island would be the glamour of portraying such a life of luxury and wealth, but Lockhart nips that right in the bud by making Cadence wallow in white guilt. She hates her privilege. She hates her family for being privileged. She is a moral special snowflake for being the only one of her clan determined to hate being rich. Everyone else is shallow and short-sighted. Only she has depth and morals and can see her family for the selfish people they are.

I know our society is currently very focused on learning to be aware of your own privileges in life. I assume Cadence’s portrayal is a response to this and is an attempt to make her seem either relatable (she’s richer than you but she doesn’t want to be!) or likable (she isn’t superficial like the rest of her family!). Personally, I think the effect is just preachy. I could see if the book wanted to portray the “dark side” of the rich and show how money cannot make you happy, how Cadence’s family suffers from too-high expectations, the pressure to be perfect, the stress of having to look perfect even if their marriages or their careers are in shambles. I just think the novel goes too far with Cadence’s constant speeches about having to reject all her privilege.

The plot itself is generally unremarkable. Cadence and her cousins hang out on their island, swimming and having cookouts and whatever else people do to celebrate summer on a beach, while their parents have spats about inheritances and who the favorite child is. I have no idea what the title is supposed to be referencing, as none of Cadence’s cousins seem to be liars and lying doesn’t really play a role in the plot. Maybe they’re just all lying about being happy to be Sinclairs???

The final twist is the only reason I bumped my Goodreads rating of the book up to three stars. I honestly did not see the twist coming. It took me completely by surprise and added a whole new dimension to the story. This single moment of the novel is gloriously impressive. However, I don’t think it’s enough to make it worth reading the rest of the book, so I recommend passing on this one.

17 thoughts on “We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

  1. carlisajc says:

    I felt really similarly to you in that the surprising ending was this book’s only redeeming grace. But I still wasn’t able to give it three stars. I think I gave it 1 1/2, just because the over-flowery prose and the obnoxious fairy tale stories in the middle that made no sense. But I feel like most people LOVE this book, so I’m glad to see someone share my opinion!

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    • Briana says:

      I tend to be a high rater, which is part of the reason I only do ratings on Goodreads and not here on the blog. I have to really talk myself to going down to even two stars. Like, “Would you actually recommend this to anyone else to read? No? Then why are you trying to give it three stars?!” 😉 I was completely underwhelmed by this one, though, and very often just annoyed by the characters. I don’t know if the author was trying to show that privileged people are annoying or not, since it also seemed like part of the goal was to show that the ulta-rich have problems, too.

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  2. jubilare says:

    Is it bad that, just looking at the title, I felt that this wasn’t my kind of book? I know the “never judge a book by it’s cover,” but it’s hard when one’s instinct about a cover proves to be right.

    Of course, this ends up just filling me with anxiety when I think what kind of cover might be slapped on anything I happen to publish (assuming I publish through the “official channels”). Oy…

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    • Briana says:

      I was given this as a gift, but I wouldn’t have picked it up either, based on the cover. The cover reminds me of some other contemporary YA I’ve read and didn’t like (Breathless by Jessica Warman comes to mind), and the book was actually fairly similar to them, so I don’t think my judgment was far off.

      Hm, yes, it doesn’t help that authors don’t typically get a lot of say on their own covers, but I think in *most* cases I’ve seen the covers do a decent job of matching the tone of the book.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Krysta says:

          I think it makes sense to judge books by their covers since the covers are part of a marketing strategy. I look at this and I know immediately it’s contemporary YA, which I generally don’t enjoy. Then, too, I would associate it with stuff like Breathless, which would make me want to not read it even more. Though I do understand that authors don’t always like their covers or think that it accurately represents their stories.

          Liked by 1 person

          • jubilare says:

            I think it depends. It’s good, to some extent, to have a visual lexicon like that, but only if the contents really fit the pattern.
            The fantasy and sci-fi genres have a long history of wretched covers that have little or nothing to do with the contents, and as I write speculative fiction, I have reason to fear (though things have gotten a little better over the years).
            To be honest, my blood runs cold at the thought of being given a typical fantasy-novel cover or one of the trendy doctored-photograph covers.

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            • jubilare says:

              It’s because either the publishers don’t take the books seriously, or because they believe that the fan-base consists of idiots. There’s no visual way to tell the good stuff from the dross. One has to go by recommendations and ratings instead. :/

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            • Krysta says:

              That seems odd considering how popular sci-fi and fantasy are becoming. I wonder if the marketing departments just think “Oh, this is what a sci-fi cover looks like” and keep making them the same way.

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            • jubilare says:

              There has started to be a shift away from terrible sci-fi/fantasy covers, but it’s slow and the industry hasn’t figured out what to replace the horribleness with, yet. Some go the YA route (for better or worse), some (usually once a series has become successful) make nice, clean covers (George R. R. Martin has gotten some of those), while others still opt for the cheese.
              I wouldn’t be bothered so much if I thought I would have the power of veto. Like “please don’t objectify the main protagonist,” or “that cover has absolutely nothing to do with the book.” Few authors get even that, and those who do are already established.
              But I should probably stop worrying. After all, first things first: to finish the dang story and start seeking publication. 😉

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            • Krysta says:

              I admit I don’t often wander into the sci-fi/fantasy section anymore because I’m actually embarrassed to look at some of the covers, so I don’t about the shift. In the meantime, I will be wishing you all the best in finishing your story AND having a fantastic cover!

              Liked by 1 person

            • jubilare says:

              “I’m actually embarrassed to look at some of the covers” Yup. Same here. It’s even harder to pick them up long enough to read the flap, much less be seen reading them on the bus. It’s no wonder the fan-base has had such a hard go of it over the years when it LOOKS like they’re reading crap even when they aren’t. It’s taken more than one generation of people dealing with that shame and ridicule to finally turn the tide. 😉

              Thanks!

              Liked by 1 person

            • Briana says:

              Beyond the awful cheesiness of fantasy covers, my biggest issue with them is that they all look the same to me. If I wander into the sci-fi/fantasy section of a bookstore hoping to just pick up something fun and random off the shelf, I usually end up leaving in frustration without buying anything at all because there’s no way for me to differentiate the series. Even worse is the complete failure to indicate somehow whether the book is tenth in a series or something. I’m just too afraid of getting it wrong to buy any fantasy without thorough research first!

              Liked by 1 person

  3. DoingDewey says:

    How disappointing! This is a book I own, in part because several bloggers I know who don’t usually read YA really liked this, but it seems average to me and so I haven’t picked it up. I’m sure I’ll give it a chance eventually, but I don’t have high expectations.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      I saw a lot of really positive reviews for it, as well, but as far as I can tell they were mostly praising the plot. And while the endingissurprising, I thought having to deal with the annoying characters to get that far wasn’t necessarily worth it. 😉

      Like

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