What would be the first book I read after finishing my undergraduate degree?
I had a few contenders. Most of these you will see in the coming blog posts. However, this book was a treat I bought for myself to read after exam period finished, and eventually it won out over some other books, books that had been sitting on my shelf much longer.
I first came across this book two days after its publication date, about a fortnight ago. As is often the way, it was from one of my favourite BookTubers that I heard about this new young adult novel. She talked about the book without telling anything about it, but her description was enough to intrigue me into buying it. She talked about a Twitter live-read that happened last Saturday – unfortunately my book didn’t arrive in time, but I checked out some of the tweets. The general astonishment and intense emotional investment of the people reading it swayed me. If this review persuades you to read it, I urge you to check out the hashtag #liarsliveread.
I don’t want to go into this too much because it’ll ruin it. First I’ll give you the blurb:
We are liars
We are beautiful and privileged
We are cracked and broken
A tale of love and romance
A tale of tragedy
Which are lies?
Which is truth?
Sounds pretty intriguing straight off. But it also sounds like a lot of young adult books out at the moment, so I was dubious going into this. It was only the quotes on the cover that persuaded me:
‘Thrilling, beautiful, and blisteringly smart, We Were Liars is utterly unforgettable’ – and that was from John Green, whose most recent novel The Fault In Our Stars I reviewed in April.
We Were Liars is narrated by Cadence Sinclair Eastman, a member of the rich and highly privileged Sinclair family, and follows her summers on Beechwood Island, Massachusetts, an island owned by the family, just off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. In particular, the summer she was fifteen. She, her cousins Mirren and Johnny, and Johnny’s stepdad’s nephew, Gat (it’s complicated), are ‘the Liars’. I don’t want to tell you any more than that.
Things I liked
Cadence herself, and her relationship with Gat. You know from the second page that she thinks he is beautiful, so I hope no one thinks that is a spoiler. Following an ambiguous accident during her fifteenth summer, you may think Cady has become a rebellious teenager, dying her hair and being rude to her family. But it is through this that Lockhart disguises her mystery.
The language. Although I certainly felt as though I was in a young adult novel a lot of the time, having this as the first book I read after finishing my degree (which ended with Paradise Lost, Doctor Faustus, and The Tempest), it was so rewarding to fall into this self-conscious but simple and elegant, inherently modern, style. Like The Fault In Our Stars, it has many quotable lines of dialogue and prose, the one I’ve seen most being:
“Can I hold your hand?” he asked.
I put mine in his.
“The universe is seeming really huge right now,” he told me. “I need something to hold on to.”
Although the dialogue is not particularly polished (or necessarily up to grammatical persnicketing standards), it is true to the characters, both in representing their ages and their individual personalities. I find a lot of young adult novels (and novels in general – I’m looking at you, Elizabeth Kostova) can slack on dialogue, with every character speaking with identical tone, regardless of age, situation, described personality, time period, gender, emotion…
The twisting turning story. I went into this knowing there was a twist, but made a conscious decision to try not to guess because, if you know me well, you know I ruin a lot of things that way. In truth I didn’t guess until a few pages before it was revealed. She really got me with this one, I was impressed. And emotional.
The role of the grandfather. I don’t want to delve too much into this, either, but he is a much more complex and sinister figure than he seems in the opening chapters.
The intermittent fairy tales. They are not the fairy tales you know. They also don’t distract too much from the main plot, of which I am absolutely in favour.
The allusions to Wuthering Heights. They were a good distraction from the mystery itself. I approve. When planning this post as I was reading We Were Liars, I was thinking up taglines such as ‘Wuthering Heights for the modern age’, ‘Bronte in Boston’, and ‘What if Cathy and Heathcliff had had e-mail?’. When I reached the end they were all irrelevant. Damn it.
Things I didn’t like
Sometimes felt a bit young for me, but I got over that quickly.
It made me sad.
The somewhat misleading blurb, ‘Which are lies, which is truth? You decide’. I think that, eventually, there is only one truth. If you read this and disagree, please leave a comment or message me on Facebook. I’d be interested to see.
Should I read this?
That depends. Are you in the mood for a story that is simultaneously a coming of age novel, a story about mental illness and trauma, a thriller and a romance? If so…put aside a couple of hours of your day. It’s best to read it all at once.
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The Book Depository
You can buy the book here: http://www.bookdepository.com/We-Were-Liars-Lockhart/9781471403989/?a_aid=SpidersLibrary
Because I am trying not to use Amazon in my own half-arsed protest-y way, I’d like to recommend to people that they check out The Book Depository, which is a great, user-friendly site with affordable books ranging from brand new releases to classics, and in many different editions at less-than brand new prices. As I am now officially an affiliate of The Book Depository, I gain a small commission if you use my affiliate link to buy books! Please do check it out, even if you don’t buy anything right now.