Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

This book has received buckets of hype over the past few months, so when I saw it for 99p on Kindle I thought I might as well check it out and see what all the fuss was about.

In all but one of the ‘reviews’ I’ve seen, people literally lie about the plot of the book, which is what made it so intriguing for me to want to read, so here are a couple of examples of that if you don’t want to know the truth about We Were Liars. As usual, my review will be spoiler free, but if you do want to read it totally fresh, then please check out the videos I’ve linked and come back here once you’ve read it to see if you agree with my take on it.

On to the actual review: 

We Were Liars is the story of the very rich, very beautiful, very old, Sinclair family as told from the perspective of Cadence, the eldest grandchild. Every summer, the whole family gets together on their family’s island (somewhere off the coast of America in the Arctic Ocean), and the Liars (Cadence, Johnny, Gat and Mirren – the four oldest grandchildren) congregate. One summer, Cadence has an accident which leaves her memory severely damaged and gives her increasingly awful migraines, and she is banned from going to the island the following summer. Furious, and missing her cousins who don’t speaks between summers, she demands to go back to the island, if only for a few weeks, the next summer. When she arrives, the old houses have been knocked down and rebuilt, and all of her grandmother’s heirlooms have been sold off or destroyed. It is with this backdrop of catastrophic change that Cadence begins (with the help of the Liars) to piece back together the summer of her accident.

This story really lived up to its hype. It was mysterious and intriguing enough, whilst still letting me as a reader piece things together a few pages or paragraphs before Cadence did. I really enjoyed the metaphor of self-harm which accompanied Cadence talking about pain or emotional trauma, but obviously if you find this stuff triggering then I’d recommend avoiding this book. The whole premise of the story was believable, but I found it difficult it place in time. The nature of a grand old family with a summer island feels very 60’s to me, so when they would casual mention email, Facebook and mobile phones it felt very jarring – I felt like this book didn’t know what time it was meant to be in, but not always in a good way. I really enjoyed the short allegorical passages where Cadence tries to figure out her families dynamic, and I also really liked the structure of the text on the page, with line breaks between half formed thoughts.

On the Kindle, I couldn’t flick back and forth between the family tree (at the front of the book) and the story, and because there are so many grandchildren who aren’t a huge part of the story, I found myself getting confused as to who was who and which child belonged to which parent. The introduction of Gat and Ed made this even more difficult (they aren’t featured in the family tree at all). If I was reading a print book it may have remedied the problem, but even so I still had problems ageing most of the other children – to Cadence they were just younger so I felt like Lockhart didn’t bother maintaining a specific age for them and in my mind the twins in particular drifted from being 6 to being 12 or 13.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The short chapters meant I could storm through it and it’s a great YA read.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is published by Hot Key Books and was released in May 2014.

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