In the first of a series of reviews determining whether BookTok books live up to the hype, Hannah Pickard sings the praises of We Were Liars.
It is often rare for a person to come across gems of books that have a substantial impact on them both during and after the time of reading. Maybe my own view on the matter is skewed because I seem to read so many average and below-average books. But now and then, I stumble across something that has me thinking about it for weeks after I’ve finished it.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart follows the Sinclair family, who spend their summers on a private island in Massachusetts (yes, they are very rich). In the novel, we see how the protagonist, Cadence, forms connections with her cousins as they grow up from children to teenagers. For some of the characters, these summers are a way to escape their normal lives in their hometowns and to embrace friendship. The plot really starts accelerating when Cadence experiences an accident on the island, and she forgets the whole experience; her cousins then try to encourage her to remember what happened.
The book isn’t just plot-driven (although that is one of my favourite parts of the novel). We really get to know the characters, so much so that Cadence’s isolation and sadness almost feels like our own. Cadence is an only child, and often feels disconnected from the world that other teenagers experience. This only intensifies when she has to take time off school because of her accident. Going back to the island is the only thing she looks forward to at this point, and when it looks like her summer will be spent at home, she spirals into a dismalness that the reader can completely sympathise with. These feelings are just some of what you will experience if you read We Were Liars; It really pangs at your emotions.
The book itself is extremely well written, with a style that reminds me somewhat of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I think authors who write for young adult audiences sometimes miss a poetic writing style that is often utilised in adult literary fiction, instead adopting something more basic. These two novels are brilliant exceptions, and you will be highlighting and tabbing the beautiful lines that are in abundance. Please don’t let the intended audience put you off; I believe anyone from the age of fourteen upwards can enjoy this novel.
This really is a book that you have to read twice. I read this as a library book, and I’m a bit sad about it because I need to re-read it. If you do decide to re-read We Were Liars, it won’t take you long, because it is so short. And this is yet another thing that I love about this book – the plot doesn’t drag on. It doesn’t feel like the author had to meet a word count. It says what it has to say, and once it doesn’t have anything left to say, it finishes.
On that note, I highly encourage you to pick it up.