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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

June 25th, 2014 (03:15 pm)
thoughtful

Current Mood: thoughtful
Current Song: Lies by Chvrches

Cadence comes from wealth. She spends her summers on her family's private island in Massachusetts, alongside her cousins, her aunts and uncles, her maternal grandparents, their dogs, and, of course, her own parents. That is, until her parents split up; then her father is out of the picture. But everything's fine. That is, until her grandmother dies; then people stop talking about her. But everything's fine. That is, until Cady experiences a physical trauma and she cannot remember what happened the summer she was fifteen. For the next two years, as she struggles to keep her head above water and to recover her memories, only bits and pieces of that summer surface. She writes down what she can recall. She begs her mother, her cousins, and the boy she loves to tell her what happened. When she finally discovers the truth, nothing will ever be the same.

Everyone is buzzing about We Were Liars, and with good reason: the ending must be read to be believed.

But here's the thing that really struck me about the story: It's about things falling apart. Relationships, people, stability, memories, and secrets all unraveling. It's about destruction, both subconscious and self-imposed, subtle and blatant.

We've all heard variations on the saying, "You can't move into the future until you accept your past." Cady lost part of herself at age 15, and until she knows what and why and how, she is broken and stuck. The accident not only led to amnesia but also debilitating headaches that last for days, her mind and her body pushing her, failing her, trapping her, betraying her.

This book captures how precious summers can be: separate from the school year, a time full of ambition and things to do or lazy days at the beach or hiding out alone in your room with a good book. Summer, to Cady, means time with her same-age cousins - snarky Johnny and lovely Mirren - and Gat, the nephew of Johnny's mother's boyfriend, who has been visiting the island with the Sinclair family since he was eight years old. The kinship Cadence feels with Mirren, Gat, and Johnny is special. Lockhart captures those summer relationships that fade in the fall, then get revived every June:

We never kept in touch over the school year. Not much, anyway, though we'd tried when we were younger. We'd text, or tag each other in summer photos, especially in September, but we'd inevitably fade out over a month or so. Somehow, Beechwood's magic never carried over into our everyday lives. We didn't want to hear about school friends and clubs and sports teams. Instead, we knew our affection would revive when we saw one another on the dock the following June, salt spray in the air, pale sun glinting off the water. - Pages 35-36

I've been a fan of E. Lockhart's writing for some time now. As evidenced by the above passage, she has a way with words. With its underlying mystery, We Were Liars is different from her previous works. It is haunting. The release date coupled with the setting makes it a good pick for a summer read, though readers will most likely stay up all night, turning pages and waiting for the other shoe to drop, just as anxious as the protagonist to uncover the secrets of Cadence's fifteenth (and seventeenth) summer.

If you enjoyed We Were Liars, you will also dig Boy Heaven by Laura Kasischke. Trust me. Read my review of Boy Heaven. I would love to hear from people who have read both of these books. Leave a comment below!

We Were Liars has been acquired by Imperative Entertainment, and Lockhart wrote the feature script. You go, E. I hope they make the movie you've created.

I included We Were Liars on my Tough Issues for Teens booklist.

Check out my reviews of E. Lockhart's novels The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and Dramarama.

Comments

Posted by: YAlit.com (YAlit_com)
Posted at: June 26th, 2014 02:55 am (UTC)

Oddly enough, I disliked both We Were Liars and Boy Heaven!

Definitely just a personal preference though. Twist endings are not my thing (twist endings plus extreme wealth is even harder). I get why everyone else likes We Were Liars though. The writing is great and the way the story unfolds is handled well. Just wasn't my cup of tea.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: June 26th, 2014 03:10 am (UTC)

Some other books with twists that I think are worth trying include:
Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn
Poison by Chris Wooding
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

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