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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Review by Manisha

We Were Liars Book Cover

We Were Liars is a mystery novel by author E. Lockhart, winner of the 2014 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Young Adult Fiction. The novel tells the story of teenage Cadence Sinclair who visits her grandfather, aunts, and cousins on their private island every summer. Cadence loves spending time with Gat, who is her aunt’s stepson, and Mirren and Johnny, her favorite cousins. This older group of cousins is referred to as The Liars, although the book never mentions specifically why. On the surface, the Sinclair family seems beautiful, rich, and perfect. But Cadence soon learns that secrets, lies, greed, and racism plague the family whom she is told to be proudly part of. During Summer Fifteen, something terrible and tragic occurred on the island, but Cadence cannot remember exactly what happened. Two years later, still suffering from migraines and selective amnesia, Cadence returns to Beachwood Island and tries to recall the events leading up to her mysterious accident. Her family and the Liars refuse to explain what happened, so Cadence must rely on her returning memory to piece together the events that occurred that one fateful night during Summer Fifteen. 


The author’s style of writing was very interesting and different, making the novel unlike others I have previously read. She often writes in verses, creating a poetic and lyrical feel. The way Lockhart develops the characters enables the reader to form a connection and root for them, despite their flaws and imperfections. Toward the end of the book, there is a huge plot twist, that changes the whole dynamic of the story, which personally I did not see coming. Lockhart’s use of an unreliable narrator encourages the reader to question whether the events really did take place or if it was just Cadence’s overactive imagination or something else entirely. Lockhart often blurs the line between reality and fiction, leaving the accident up to the reader’s own interpretation. The novel examines themes of family values, teenage love, and consequences of one’s actions in a remarkable way. She compares the aunts in the story to princesses, all greedy for their father’s wealth and affection. Through metaphors like these, the reader can draw comparisons from what happens in the Sinclair family to fairytales, which adds a deeper meaning to the novel. While the ending is ambiguous by leaving some questions unanswered, it is still a satisfying conclusion to an intricate plot. 


I would rate this book 9/10, as the concept behind the story was very clever and unique. My only complaint would be that some parts of the story were a little confusing, especially since the author writes in a poetic style, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. It was hard to put down for me at times, as I anxiously wondered what terrible secret the Sinclairs were hiding from Cadence. I would recommend it to anyone that wants a thought-provoking, captivating read, who doesn’t mind exploring a new style of writing.

Checkout We Were Liars from the Newport Beach Public Library.

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