What I'm Reading: We Were Liars

Thursday, February 19, 2015


E. Lockhart's We Were Liars was a pleasant surprise for me.  It's one of those books where the description doesn't tell you much.  Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

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 is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Pretty sparse, right?  So I didn't really know what to expect going into it, and although the book feels as sparse as its description in many ways, I actually thinks this works well for the story, and I really enjoyed it overall.  It's not the most complex or nuanced story, and it's clear that it's all about the mystery, not the characters, the background, the details, or even the plot really.  

In this way, We Were Liars reminded me a lot of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.  The characters aren't really flushed out or developed.  In fact, they feel pretty archetypical.  Cady and the other liars feel like typical teenagers, and her mom, aunts, and grandparents feel like typical east coast WASPs.  The language itself is equally stripped down, and Lockhart doesn't give lengthy descriptions or long, complex passages.  She uses just enough words to convey her story, never more than necessary.
  
Some readers may find the stripped down nature of We Were Liars to be dissatisfying.  But I thought it worked, as it kept me focused on trying to figure out what happened that summer that Cady can't remember.  Not every book has to be an in-depth character study that delves into the complexities of human nature, and that's OK.  Like I said, I think Lockhart was focused on delivering a tightly crafted and satisfying mystery that keeps readers guessing, and in that regard, I think she delivers.  I definitely don't want to spoil anything, but I thought that the twists and revelations in We Were Liars were really good.  The final twist in particular felt incredibly gratifying, and I think I let out an audible "Whoa" when I reached that part.  It really took me by surprise, and it was so good. 

We Were Liars is a quick and relatively easy read, but it delivers a satisfying mystery that pulls readers in.  Four out of five stars. 

10 comments:

  1. I've heard a lot of good things about this book. I think your review may be the most helpful - now I know what to expect if I decide to read it. Plot is the focus, not characters. Thanks for the review!

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    1. Yes, I think anyone who goes into this expecting rich characters will be disappointed. But the book is still enjoyable!

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  2. I really like your point that not ever book has to be an in-depth character study. As a recovering English major, I struggled a lot with accepting books that fall more into the entertainment category than the high art category. Especially for mysteries and other genre fiction, sometimes a good plot-boiler really hits the spot.

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    1. That's very true! It's definitely good to have books that are more entertaining than high art. And sometimes a tight mystery can be really satisfying.

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  3. I loved this one as well! I found the strange formatting to be really refreshing and well, the ending totally swept me off my feet.

    Excellent review, Allison! <33

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    1. Awesome! And I totally agree about the ending. I didn't see that final twist coming, and it really made the whole book stand out for me. Glad you enjoyed it as well!

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  4. I've seen a good number of people reading this on the train, but the online descriptions were so off-putting that I kept it off my library lists. BUT after reading your review and hearing about its stripped-down text (I've been annoyed by too-flowery books lately) I put myself on the waiting list! Excited to read this one :)

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    1. Yes, I hate the descriptions where it's like, "We can't say anything, blah, blah, blah, don't give it away once you read it!" I feel like there could have been a much better description of this without giving away the twists - most mysteries do that. I hope you enjoy it! It's a quick and fun read with a satisfying ending.

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  5. I thought this was so uniquely written! I really enjoyed how the story was unraveled, and even though I kind of had an idea of the angle the plot was going into, I got goosebumps at the end! Glad you liked it too, Allison! I'm usually a huge character driven reader and I didn't mind at all that we didn't get an in depth character arc you know, it just worked for what it was supposed to be :)

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    1. Yes, so true! It's very unique writing, very different from what you usually see these days. And you're spot on about the ending - I think every hair stood up! I'm totally with you - this sort of book usually isn't my cup of tea, but everything just worked so well. I loved it!

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