Wednesday 30 July 2014

YA REVIEW: 'We Were Liars' - E. Lockhart (Hot Key Books, 2014)

Three cousins, Cadence, Johnny and Mirren, along with outsider Gat, make up the four Liars. The cousins are Sinclairs, born into privilege and promise and every summer they congregate on the family's private island. After a terrible accident, a damaged Cadence has to sift through the murky waters of her extended family to find out the truth about the incident...

We Were LiarsWhen I finished this, I stated on Goodreads that I probably wasn't going to write a review because the less you know about this book before you read it the better. Even though I didn't know any concrete facts, I had heard whispers on the breeze and even whispers can do damage to a reading experience such as this. But then certain books live on in your head long after you've finished them and they deserve to be praised. I've successfully managed to write a spoiler-free review of a book before, a similar sort of book that requires spoiler-free reading and I think I did an alright job if I say so myself. So here goes. If you really, really don't want to know anything else about We Were Liars before you start it, I suggest you stop reading here (but only after I've said you really need to think about starting it very soon)...

I'm rubbish with books that are steeped in hype. I become a very cynical sort and even more judgey than I usually am (not something I'm particularly proud of) but this makes it all the more satisfying when a book does live up to all the praise. Let's start off with the best thing about We Were Liars - the writing. It's sparse, but I like sparse. Why use five words when you can use one? And because this style is so uncompromising, the voice is too and I don't think it needs pointing out that this is a Very Good Thing indeed (but I will anyway - it is a Very Good Thing). Cadence is the perfect character to lead us through the lives of the Sinclair family - revered, but enough of an outsider to show them warts and all.

From my own experience, there is not much to relate to with the wealthy Sinclairs but as with all good storytelling, this didn't matter a jot. This may have been a book about rich white dudes but it was also a book about prejudice and the abuse of power and love, common themes in many novels but here used in a very clever way. It felt very old-fashioned in some ways, perhaps to do with the setting. On starting it, I kept getting flashbacks of scenes from Dynasty, but here there were less shoulder-pads and more shabby-chic preppiness. I guess this is all testament to the strength of the writing again and her amazing ability to build this world of privilege in such amazing and convincing detail.

There were a few things that made it not quite perfect - it slowed down quite a lot in the middle for me (that's all I will say about this because to say anymore would be alluding to those whispers on the breeze mentioned above) and I would have enjoyed a bit more detail about the other Liars at the beginning. This is quite a quick read and we're thrown into the middle of events early on - as a consequence, it took me a little while to get to grips with some of the characters.

But these are minor gripes. We Were Liars deserves all the attention it's been getting. It is a clever, involving story with plenty of mystery, and I'm all for clever stories, especially when they are told this well.


  1. Very good job with the spoiler free review :) I am dragging my feet on reviewing this one for this very reason. I totally feel the same about hyped books but agree this one definitely lived up to the hype. It blew me away.

  2. I didn't really enjoy this one. Everyone seems to rave ... and I didn't even finish it. It felt heavy-going and I didn't have the patience for it. Shame as I love everything else the author has written :(

  3. Fab spoiler-free review Anna - I definitely agree with hyped books (and I feel like I start to judge them more harshly as well!). Glad you enjoyed this one though ;)