E. Lockhart writes this beautiful, heartbreaking novel about young love and loss, about coming to terms with life.
Cadence Sinclair Eastman is almost 18 years old, living in Vermont with her divorced mom, and their 3 dogs. She has spent all the summers of her life with her extended family at the family compound, on private Beechwood Island, off the coast of Massachusetts. The summer she turned 9, she met Gat. The summer she turned 16, she loved him.
Cadence, Mirren, Johnny and Gat. Gat, Johnny, Mirren and Cadence. Three cousins and one best friend. The Liars. Privileged teens, living their lives, trying to find out who they are and who they each want to be. Disrupting the quiet of the island, looking for change. They are inseparable every summer, until the accident.
Cadence comes from a wealthy, distinguished family. The book opens with a family tree and a map of the island; the reader right away gets a sense of importance. Or, at least, self-importance. The family is very aware of their status and wealth. There are expectations. No one fails, everyone must be beautiful and successful.
Something happens during summer 15. Cadence has an accident, a traumatic head injury, and loses her memory. She hasn’t been the same since. Last summer, her mother didn’t bring her back to Beechwood, wanting to give her time to heal. This first summer back she is fighting to get her memories back. No one, not even the other Liars, will tell her what happened. Physically, she is now fine, except for the headaches; it is her own head keeping her from knowing. She needs to find out herself.
She spends the summer searching, wandering, trying to remember. She talks to the other Liars, and they help her, guide her toward the answer. Her mother hovers and tries to keep her from really knowing. The discovery, the feeling of betrayal, the loss, all unwind slowly and organically, and beautifully. Her moment of understanding is heartbreaking.
In many ways, Cady is a poor little rich girl, surrounded by love, who can’t see the forest for the trees. I thought her self-centredness would annoy me, but it didn’t. She is normal. She is a teen, and her world revolves around her.
We Were Liars reads like an epic poem. The writing style may not be for everyone, but I loved it. It is fragmented and choppy, and while I would not want to read a ton of books in this style, I like what Lockhart accomplishes with this story.
I can’t say for sure that the twist at the end was entirely unexpected, but it still left me reeling. I think it was more that I did not want the ending.
We Were Liars is published by Delacorte Press.