Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Genre(s): Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Gisselle's Rating: 3/5
DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers for We Were Liars.
In brief summary, there is one word that I can use to describe this book: Ouch. But the word itself carries multiple meanings for how I felt about We Were Liars, and not all of them are good.
E. Lockhart's We Were Liars takes us to the tropical and beautiful Beechwood Island, a piece of land owned by her the patriarch of the Sinclair family. The Sinclairs are tight-knit and close family, spending every summer together at Beechwood Island, reuniting the Sinclair family once more as well as the Liars, a group among the children that consisted of three cousins and their friend. But something happened to Cadence (or Cady) last year on Beechwood Island, something apparently so horrible that everyone refuses to tell her. Nothing is as it seems within the Sinclair family, and by the time the story ends, you will wish you remained in the sunny bliss of Beechwood Island.
I have conflicting thoughts about this book, hence the average rating that I provided it. The story focuses primarily on Cady, a woman in her late-teens that suffered a traumatic brain injury the previous year on the island, and I am unsure if the author is fixating on that aspect of her protagonist to explain how the structure of the story is laid out. Purple prose is a consistent factor of how the story is told, and the author appears to try and bolster the novel with an incredible amount of detail and symbolism. There is also a staggering amount of embellishment when the narrator is describing her thoughts and emotions, the people in her life, or the environment around her.
"Then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell. The bullet hole opened wide and my heart rolled out of my rib cage and down into a flower bed. Blood gushed rhythmically from my open wound,
then from my eyes,
It tasted like salt and failure. The bright red shame of being unloved soaked the grass in front of our house, the bricks of the path, the steps to the porch. My heart spasmed among the peonies like a trout."
(In case it was not clear, she was not actually shot.)
This language, as well as how the prose is outlined, leaves me a bit unclear if this book was meant to follow the actual path of Cady's thoughts after her brain trauma. Was this done on purpose? Did Lockhart write Cady's thoughts choppily to highlight the breaks that occur in her mind, such as when she tries and fails to remember what happened the previous year that left her disabled? Or was Lockhart attempting a new writing style that fell short of the mark (for me, at least)?
Moreover, Cady is an incredibly unrelatable, unlikable character. It is likely that she is suffering from depression or PTSD in some manner, but even taking that into consideration, her character is one I just cannot sympathize with. All of the Sinclairs are unsympathetic characters, as a matter of fact; the family drama that drags on throughout the novel wore on me after a while, and I was even less sympathetic once I discovered that they were acting this way in the aftermath of the story's largest plot twist. If a family refuses to evaluate themselves after a tragedy as large as the one the Sinclairs suffered - losing three children in a horrific fire - and they just continue their selfish endeavors and self-important tirades, then I have literally no empathy left for them.
While I think the book was a bit more hyped online then it deserved, it was a compelling and mysterious in a way that managed to pull me through to the end of the book, despite the misgivings I have about it. The ending twist hurt a lot, so I would encourage reading it to experience that punch to the gut, but the journey to get to that point was also painful.