Mercer Island’s Island Books did this three-staff write-up of one of summer’s hottest reads: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, a psychologically suspenseful teen book that adults can’t get enough of.
There were a number of us on staff that read advance copies of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and the result was plenty of behind-the-counter discussion. When you read it (because you’d be missing out if you don’t), swing by the front desk or get in touch online and let us know your reaction. We’re curious to hear what our customers think, especially since we continue to discuss the ending.
Here’s what Nancy, Miriam, and Marni had to say about it. Consider this a starting point for further discussion.
Nancy: We Were Liars is one of those books which leaves me with an unsettling and lingering feeling, full of a certain unease about the characters and their circumstances. I found the book to be very disturbing on all kinds of levels. There is a dream-like quality to much of the book, which I wasn’t sure if it was from Caddie’s drug-addled brain after the “accident” or something else.
As the beginning of the book suggests there is much hidden darkness in the Sinclair’s closets, which they expend a great deal of energy hiding. The author’s description of the family homes and their personal lives is a convincing setting for the inevitable demise of the thin veneer that they hold up to shield themselves from the outside world. The depiction of the controlling elder Mr. Sinclair and the effect that he had on his adult daughters felt convincing.
I was completely taken by surprise at where the book led and what the teenagers were capable of doing. They developed as believable characters and their relationships seemed so realistic that I was totally blown away at the final outcome. It is a tough book to discuss, since hardly any real substance can be mentioned without giving away the mystery—which is what makes the books such a good read.
Miriam: This book left me near tears and I found myself thinking about it days later. Discussing these kind of “twist” novels is always challenging because we hate to give away the ending, so I’ll tread lightly here on the blog.
I found the most realistic part of the story was the three adult daughters battling for their inheritance and the way their father manipulated them. I could almost imagine an entirely separate novel told from the daughters’ point of view. That seemed to me where the complex relationships remained.
I liked the use of Cadence’s fairy tales to explore the universal themes of inheritance and parental relationships. It didn’t feel like a current day story, and maybe the fairy tales contributed to that historical feeling. I could almost see the whole story through a sepia lens.
So were Gat and Cadence really in love? Lockhart spends a great deal of time romanticizing their relationship, but as the story wears on it seems like Cadence had quite a few delusions going on. Gat had a girlfriend back home too, and the way he told Cadence that she would never understand what his real life was like made me think her feelings were more one-sided than she believed.
My big question is did you see the ending coming? I wondered if I was blind to the obvious. I read plenty of suspense novels, but I was completely shocked by the ending. I was also surprised what an emotional impact it had on me. I didn’t realize I was invested in the characters until the last fifty pages or so. I keep trying to imagine Cadence’s future and how she’ll live with the knowledge she regained, and I just can’t even fathom it.
Marni: I read We Were Liars yesterday in one long, fevered session on my deck. It gutted me. Completely. Now I have to ponder on it for a day or two and then read it again…because that’s pretty much required once you know what you end up knowing but you can’t say because it’s twisty and angsty and so unexpected that it sucks the breath out of you.
I found the staccato rhythm of Cady’s narration to be very slowly unnerving—I didn’t realize how much it was affecting me, until…UNTIL. I did
briefly think that Gat was not among us anymore, as that seemed like a
reasonable conclusion considering how traumatized Cady was—but then
the other Liars interacted with him so I knew I was wrong. And then
I wanted to weep-laugh for how truly wrong I was.
And then there’s the whole other story—the powerful, manipulative patriarch and the resentful, fearful, passive-aggressive daughters wielding their powers of manipulation and fear over their own children to fight back against all of the control. The wealth and how it leads to conformity and
suppression and image control. And then you see that as the backdrop
for what these teenagers feel not just compelled but entitled to
do—the self-righteousness of it all.
GUTTED. I am not going to stop thinking about this for a while. WOW.