Sunday, May 11, 2014

We Were Liars (E. Lockhart)

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC!

I was very hesitant about reading We Were Liars. It is perhaps the buzziest YA book out there at the moment, written by a giant in the field, E. Lockhart. I am always intrigued by but wary of such books, because sometimes they really suck (Divergent) and sometimes they blow me away and I'm sad I didn't cave in earlier (Gone Girl). This one in particular was hard to judge because the plot is shrouded in mystery and we are told that we are not supposed to tell anyone about what happens! AHHHH!

But I will tell you some information. Not all, of course. I've never been the sort to spoil a story, so I won't give anything major away. Here's what you need to know to determine if you're interested. The Sinclairs are a wealthy, name-dropped-like-it's-hot kind of family. The grandfather patriarch owns a tiny island populated with huge mansions, and every summer his daughters return to fill them with their children.

The three oldest are Mirren, Johnny, and Cadence. Johnny brings his possible stepbrother, the Indian-American Gat, and the four of them are inseparable. They are the Liars, the golden children of Grandpa Sinclair and the future inheritors of all his wealth and fortune. But it's been two years since Cadence has seen the island--two summers ago, she suffered a terrible accident that she can't remember, one that left her with some serious head trauma. She finally is ready to return and struggles with the island, which feels haunted with unhappy feelings she doesn't understand.

I didn't think I was going to like this book once I started it. I am not a big fan of stories where we know we don't know something and are constantly reminded that we don't, and that's how this book opened: Cady references her accident constantly, but it didn't bother me since she also didn't know what it was. It was more like a mystery novel than a keeping-things-from-the-reader sort of story, so for that I was grateful.

Cady has a narrative style that has, according to other reviews I've read, jarred people. She speaks in short, clipped sentences, descriptions that are sometimes sentence fragments. I'm not sure why other people didn't like it; I'm not saying I loved it, but it worked. It felt like part of her character, and I have to admit that I didn't notice it until other people pointed it out. One of my favorite things about the book is Cady's use of fairy tale as a metaphor: she would give us stories of her life rewritten as fairy tales, groups of threes, rich kings, and daughters who marry princes. Anyone knows the fastest way to my heart is fairy tale stuff.

Of course, a book like this must end in a plot twist. Don't worry, I'm not going to tell you. I was genuinely surprised by the revelation, and it left me feeling really strange--upset and twisted in the stomach and quite sad. Other reviewers said they saw it coming, but I guess that means they're amateur detectives in their spare time? I don't know. I didn't find it predictable at all. It really got me. And I imagine that even if I knew what the secret was, I would still get to the end and feel like my organs had gone through a strainer.

We Were Liars was a lot of fun. It's an elegantly-constructed piece of writing, one that works really hard to draw you in, cast a spell on you, and then punch you in the gut and knock the wind out of you. What a stunner.

My rating: 5/5
We Were Liars on Goodreads
See what I've been reading lately!

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