Reed Books: We Were Liars

Jess Reed, Editor

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is a widely well-regarded modern suspense novel, popular among young adult readers and genre fiction enthusiasts. It follows Cady and her large, rich, old money family in their summer vacation homes on an island near Martha’s Vineyard, as they tear each other apart for spots in Cady’s grandfather’s will. Cady, her cousins Johnny and Mirren, and Johnny’s friend/Cady’s love interest Gat, are the only ones who notice their family’s elitism and self-destruction, and become a tight friend group. When Cady develops amnesia from a swimming accident, we have to relearn her summers with her.

While the book does have a very well written plot twist and good political assertions, I was honestly disappointed by the rest of it. It’s… fine. Inoffensive, short, easy to read. But there was a lack of setting and character development that left the story incredibly bland. Lockhart spends chapters on unimportant errands and events for Cady to attend/remember, but spends no time at all writing sensory descriptions or actually relevant dialogue.

And while it is marketed as a young adult book, it’s still remarkably juvenile. Lockhart ends most of her chapters with a series of sentence and paragraph fragments, hoping to piece together something poetic. It is, but it’s poetic in the way that a fourteen year old’s Tumblr blog is poetic. The characters get described as being like “rain” or “contemplation” without actually being developed.

The infamous final plot twist is interesting, and has a good payoff, but since we never got a chance to emotionally invest in the characters it doesn’t really affect the readers. And since it’s only barely foreshadowed, it seems like a cheap way to surprise everyone without destroying the story.

It’s an enjoyable enough read, and only has about 200 pages, but for such a hyped up novel I was underwhelmed. I hope Lockhart’s writing has improved since, but this book is generally awkward and weak.