Behind the beauty…

We Were Liars

Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.

Expectation. Perception. Reality.

As a YA suspense novel We Were Liars expertly bends and twists these three concepts as we meet the ‘perfect’ Sinclair family. Written through the eyes of Cadence during the family summers on their private island, the world is an oyster to the Sinclairs. Money is no object so they have the best opportunities, the best of everything and an impenetrably close family unit and yet they soon find that the reality of such perfection comes at a price…

This YA suspense novel genuinely keeps the reader guessing the secret behind the smiles from the first page to the reveal towards the end. Just when you think you’ve figured out the mystery of Summer Fifteen, something else pushes your view in a different direction. We Were Liars wonderfully alludes to stuff of fairytales (in fact, I really enjoyed the fairytale-style interludes) as well as Brontë’s wonderfully Wuthering Heights, combining the beauty of the classics with a contemporary twist. It plays with concepts of racism, materialism and class as well as the gothic but nowhere near as much as I would have liked. The darkness in the story is instead found behind the forced sunny smiles of the family as Cady tries to remember what happened the fateful Summer Fifteen.

The big reveal is tragic and somewhat stunning but unlike other responses to this title, I was left dry-eyed (and I cry at a lot of things!). The issue lies within the unreliability of Cady’s narration and the fragmented narrative voice. Having finished the book I now completely understand Lockhart’s stylistic choice with the narrative but I thought the character/reader connection is paramount for a full dramatic response and yet it never happened. For me, the broken style of speech prevented any kind of relationship forming with my narrator and so the emotions weren’t as engaged as I feel they should have been – but that’s me!

Finally, I realise this is really tenuous but I just didn’t understand why the four main protagonists called themselves The Liars – they don’t really lie! I initially thought it had something to do with the family surname (SincLAIR) but then SINners would probably have been better choice. What is clear, however, is that this story is shrouded in the blurring of the truth from others and from the self; in fact it hangs on this concept. Rather than ruin the story for others, you are encouraged to lie if asked about this book. So is it as good as the hype? Well, if a tale of balloon animals in an alternate universe floats your boat…

3 star


2 thoughts on “Behind the beauty…

  1. I’m so glad I am not the only one who wasn’t completely enamoured with this book. It was okay, but not a 5 star for sure! It kind of had that typical year 8 ending a bit (won’t kill the story for those who haven’t read it). Thanks for the review.

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