A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends – the Liars – whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. The truth.
We Were Liars’ protagonist Cadence Sinclair Eastman is a privileged and gloomy teenager, and together, along with three other Liars known as Johnny, Mirren and Gat – they made lives at Beechwood Island thrilling and miserable. Every summer, the Liars would visit the Beechwood Island where they spend their holiday and the “supposedly” paradise where they don’t have to think of anything but relax. But the summer fifteen did everything to them, but that. Essentially, the protagonist Cadence has a head injury, precisely selective amnesia where she doesn’t remember what happened during the summer fifteen. Although, something catastrophic did occurred. An incidence which have left a deep scar in the Sinclair family. Two years later, she is ready to go back to Beechwood Island where she slowly recalls what happened. The truth.
For many readers, this isn’t a realistic fiction, unless your grandfather or your family is extremely prosperous that you own an island, and you have an upper-class attitude compared to the norms. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be able to relate to any of the characters in the novel based on their family background. (Well, Gat is an exception because he isn’t a Sinclair.) This novel is divided into five parts and throughout the novel, the story is told in three different categories – the past, the present and the metaphorical short stories of the “King and His Three Daughters”. We Were Liars contains a lot of suspensions, drama, particularly family feudal, and it explores the slow progress of Cadence dealing with her psychological problem. It is written brilliantly, but the same time it is messy.
As a reader, I understand why some see We Were Liars as their Bible. But some readers like me, we just don’t click with this novel completely. I appreciate that it is Goodreads Choice 2014 Winner, however, I probably should stop reading what others expect me to read because the hype often just destroys what my expectation of the novel is. This is why from now on, I will just read books at my own interest rather than stopping my tbr project just so I could read the “chosen” one.
Let’s start with the positives! (Because I love lists~)
- I like the idea of the plot and how the story was structured. Perhaps, it was those short little chapters that didn’t make me doze off halfway.
- I like the idea how Lockhart set the story in the island and actually provided us with a map of the island, because otherwise I would have been confused.
- I love the “King and His Three Daughters” stories because it was partly what kept me going.
- Through the protagonist’s journey, as Cadence tries to find the truth, her emotions were described vividly and often quite dark. It’s exactly what I liked about this novel, that Lockhart didn’t try to hide her raw feelings. It made the protagonist slightly more three-dimensional.
- Cadence’s emotions intertwined really well with the novel’s mystery. Sometimes, my heart would be racing as I could feel the story is escalating and a “WARNING” sign is up ahead.
- Oh, the plot twist really stunned me and I think the author has done a great job writing Part 5: The Truth, which personally is my favourite part, as well as part 1: Welcome – where it originally sucked me in.
- I really like the overall message the author is trying to convey to the readers, and it was done nicely. I don’t like any characters in the novel, I just sympathised with them and I think there is a difference. But it is a positive because at least I don’t hate them.
- The length of the novel was perfecto! It was neither too long nor short, which quenched a reader’s thirst as they tried to find the truth, and at the same time it doesn’t drag it out like Beautiful Disaster which made the readers start losing interest.
Let’s continue to the negatives!
- [Personal problem] I have a major love and hate relationship with Lockhart’s writing style. At first, I found it quite intelligent and fascinating because I thought she is unique and that she is the new black. In case you’re wondering, her writing style is quite poetic and sometimes sentences would be made into a form of poetry. Also, her writing is quite in-your-face so if want a light reading then you’re barking up the wrong tree. I found her writing style in this novel consists of more telling and showing. I was hoping more of a scenery description. But over time, I think the novel has just become slightly depressing and overwhelming for me as the emotions of Cadence and the suspension in the novel just integrates too well. Yes, it would be amazing for readers wanting a heavy read. I don’t know if I’m making any sense…It’s like I love sushi, but when you have too many you just start feeling sick. That’s virtually the same with anything. So I suppose what I’m saying is that We Were Liars’ storyline is just a tad too dark for me to absorb.
- [Organisation issue] Secondly, I found the storyline to be quite messy and not as orderly or organised as I wished it would be. I mean, I love the “King and His Three Daughters”, but I get quite confused when the author switches from the past to the future. If there was something specific e.g. different font in the novel which I could easily identify between the past/present then it would’ve been easier for me to read. It would flow better too. Perhaps I would’ve finished it in one-sitting.
- [Mood of the Novel] Thirdly, I realised that in the novel you’re either greedy, dark (in terms of secretive) or spoiled rotten. Every character I could think of all belong in these three categories, which is, I supposed, what Lockhart wants the readers to think. But I couldn’t relate to any of the characters at all! Trust me, I’ve tried. It is just unrealistic. The characters are quite hard to like as they’re all miserable. They’re either always drunk, upset over who is getting the most properties on the Beechwood Island or having a cat fight. It is just so melancholy and depressing. I especially despise it the most when they condemn themselves for not being perfect. It’s like so what? Nobody is perfect…
- [Romance?!] Lastly, the romance between Gat and Cadence -.- …I want to ship a new awesome couple and being able to fangirl about it to my best friends and readers in my clubs on Goodreads…but the love demanded not to be felt. There wasn’t a moment where my heart skips a beat when they have an intimate minute or conversation. It was always so sudden, there wouldn’t be a reason why they love each other. I feel like I was reading Romeo and Juliet all over again.
After reading We Were Liars, I believe I have realised that many YA contemporary authors have been trying to do little tricks in their novel so they could be the next “unique”, particularly after the succession of TFIOS. I really appreciate that they are trying to be “different” from other authors, and it is amazing that they’re now thinking outside the box! But sometimes it is doesn’t work out for some readers…
Final Words: This novel is slightly too heavy and dark for my liking, but otherwise excellently thought out and well written! Definitely suited for older YA readers due to their reading experiences and would not be as overwhelming if they’ve read other depressing novels, or have a protagonist where she/he has to deal with a serious traumatic problem like Cadence Sinclair Eastman in We Were Liars.