“We Were Liars” is a YA mystery/romance fusion that takes place on the fictional private island of Beechwood, just off the coast of Massachusetts and owned by the ultra-wealthy Sinclair family. The story begins as Cadence Sinclair arrives for her 15 summer on Beechwood along with her mother, two aunts and the liars: cousins Mirren, Johnny and Gat Patil, a nephew to one of her aunt’s boyfriends. Although it starts off like any other summer, it ends with Cadence suffering a traumatic brain injury that erases her entire memory of what went on that year at Beechwood. Two years later, still no one will tell her the truth.
This book has several conditions for the reader to accept before they dive in. First, there’s a pretty big family tree. One grandfather, three mothers and all of their husbands and boyfriends and six grandkids. Second, every family within the family has their own named estate on the island and they travel back and forth constantly. Third, there’s not a single indication of who is worth believing, not even Cadence. And if you think there is one, don’t worry, because it’s just a lie.
That said, I love the way “We Were Liars” is written. It’s full of poetic imagery and symbols. Cadence is plagued by frequent headaches, described through absurd, fantasy imaginations of herself being beaten to death by the likes of witches and other dark, yet possibly relevant idols. Every character has a unique description. “Mirren, she is sugar, curiosity, and rain.” And it works way better than I expected it to. Mirren absolutely is sugar, curiosity and rain.
The book does have a few pitfalls. The romance element between Cadence and Gat is a bit overdramatic, boring and moody. I found myself glossing over it sometimes to get back into the real story: finding out what on earth happened during summer fifteen. Unfortunately their relationship is far and large the biggest subplot of the story, so the reader will never get away for long.
Some of the characters, namely Cadence’s two aunts, serve little purpose to the overall plot. The reader is constantly made aware of their presence every time they get within eye sight, but they only seem to exist so that the cousins can exist and maybe to remind the reader that the Sinclairs are a bit of a pompous bunch.
While the big reveal can certainly be guessed at, Lockhart has something large up her sleeve to keep you from getting it perfectly. Very large. It’s all lies.
In all, I’d say I had a really fun time reading this book. The prose is so unique and creative, and the main characters really held my attention. The plot had a bit of bloat that could have definitely been jettisoned, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.
Read it. Be lied to. Lie about it. We’re all liars here.
I’m going to break my rating down a little bit this time, just to give a clearer indication of this books strengths and weaknesses. Maybe this will become a thing.
Plot: 3.5 / 5
Setting and Characters: 4 / 5
Prose: 4.5 / 5