Staff Review – We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I have seen this book appear on multiple lists over the years, so it was always in the back of my mind to read. As I started this book, my husband pointed out that it didn’t look like my “usual” type of book. One of my reading goals for this year is to open myself up to more genres, so I thought I would give this mystery YA novel a try!

“We Were Liars” follows 17 year old Cadence. She is the oldest grandchild of the Sinclair family – a family that does not have any problems of any kind. Believable, right? The Sinclairs hold themselves up to be a “perfect” family, where everyone is “normal” all the time, meaning they don’t talk about their divorces, drinking problems or anything else that highlight their imperfections. Every summer, the Sinclairs all get together on Beechwood Island. This is when Cady spends time with her cousins Mirren and Johnny, as well as Johnny’s step-father’s nephew Gat, whom Cady falls for. During summer fifteen, an accident occurred that Cady can’t remember, and no one will help her figure out. She remembers almost drowning alone in the lake, but not how or why she got there alone. The story takes place during Cady’s present – summer seventeen – as she goes back to Beechwood Island for the first time since that fateful summer, as well as flashbacks back as she pieces together summer fifteen and what really happened.

One thing that became clear very quickly with this novel is that Cadence is an unreliable narrator. We know this mainly because she cannot remember what happened during summer fifteen – after which she has been on pain killers and tries desperately to piece back her memory. Her mother and cousins tell her that they were told not to remind Cady of what happened, but that it would be better for her to remember on her own. Once the secret is revealed and Cady does remember what happened two years prior, the reader looks back at everything they just read and questions most of the novel! She also uses metaphors throughout the novel of violent acts, which can be a bit confusing at first before the reader realizes these things are not actually happening, but is also another reason the reader cannot fully trust Cady.

“We Were Liars” touches on some dark topics as well, such as racism and the price people are willing to pay for “perfection”. E. Lockhart dives into some difficult discussions throughout the book, mostly coming through the character of Gat, whose Indian heritage is a silent issue for the Sinclair family. As mentioned, there is also a twist ending that was a shock to read. Readers know there was some type of accident/incident that happened during summer fifteen, and I had my guesses throughout the novel, but I was way off once I learned the truth! Twist endings are such a great way to make a book unforgettable to readers, and Lockhart did just that! There is also a prequel available, “Family of Liars”, that gives readers an insight into what the family looked like years before Cady and her cousins were born. If you’re looking for something with a twist to remember, check out We Were Liars by E. Lockhart today!