If you’ve seen any book-related Tiktoks it’s highly likely that you’ve heard of We Were Liars. Not only has it accumulated a reputation among audiences in general, but the book was also named a best book of the year by NPR, Time, The WSJ, and The Boston Globe, alongside winning the Goodreads choice award for best young adult fiction. So what is this book about and, is it actually worth the read?
We Were Liars follows Cadence Sinclair Eastman, oldest grandchild of the rich and prominent Sinclair family as she navigates life, but mostly summers spent on her family’s island off the coast of Massachusetts. The book begins with detailing sunny coastal summers with her aunts and cousins, starting with “summer fifteen” (the first summer she notes, the summer she spent when she was fifteen years old). However, right from the beginning it’s clear to see that the Sinclair family isn’t quite as perfect as they would like to seem, with secrets and drama simmering just below the surface. But for Cadence summer fifteen seemed pretty good, if not perfect (for reasons I won’t disclose for the sake of finding it out yourself) despite all the family darkness, until her accident. An accident Cadence doesn’t remember, and one that no one will talk to her about but has clearly changed the Sinclair family as they all know it.
So what did happen that night?
Right from the first chapter, We Were Liars begins wrapping you in a (good, albeit a little difficult at times) sense of confusion. Not only in the almost poetic way that E. Lockhart writes Cadence’s thoughts, but in the twisting and cryptic metaphors. The book only gets more mystifying as we are introduced to Cadence’s family, most notably her, to say the least eccentric, mother and sisters. Next we meet the infamous liars, Cadence and other older cousins, and her family-friend (the situation is confusing, not completely a family friend but close enough) and love interest Gat. And last but not least, let us not forget the Sinclair grandparents, who from the beginning seem a little too involved with the family.
The characters and their interactions with Cadence are incredibly well-spaced out and written in a way that keeps you reading right until the big twist at the end of the book, and Cadence herself is a character you will come to sympathize, if not empathize, with (at least for part of the book). The writing of the plot and the night in question is equally as well-written as the characters, with just enough information to leave you utterly confused about what exactly went down. All in all, the majority of the book is a well-written, well plotted-out, and a worth it mystery read.
Now, here’s where things start to go a little bit downhill. The raved about plot twist? While it can definitely be shocking, it may be easy to predict given enough experience with the mystery genre. And while it’s clear to see that some characters, like Aunt Bess, are written to be disliked, even the characters who are written to be likable often fall short. Such as Gat, while his character is undoubtedly well-written, as are the others, his sweet, charismatic, and woke character does not touch hearts (or at least didn’t touch mine) as intended. Instead, his character comes off as a little manipulative, slightly fickle, and overall controversial. Moreover, the ability of the liars to be oblivious and insensitive to the struggles of others, not just within their family but in the world at large, is shocking.
So the big question: is it worth-it to read this book? The answer, quite honestly, depends on you. If you enjoy books with characters you can get attached to and come to appreciate, this book might not be for you. However, if you enjoy a good plot and seamless writing this is definitely a book I would recommend.
Rating: 4/5 stars