Published: Delacorte Press, 2014
Genre: YA contemporary, mystery
My rating: 5/5 stars
“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.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.” (Goodreads)
Why I picked it up:
I read this my freshman year of college, and picked it up again my senior year as a book club read. I loved it the first time around, and thought it’d be fun to review the second time around.
I loved this book the first time I read it, so much so that I read it underneath my desk in my freshman classes (a trick I pulled daily in high school but didn’t usually have the guts to in college). It’s a book I always wanted to reread because there was a Big Reveal at the end, and I love going back to find foreshadowing and see how everything built up after the initial shock wears off. Book club finally gave me a chance to do this.
As much as I did want to reread this, I was a bit nervous going into it. So much of the appeal during my first read was the mystery. I tore through the pages, reading constantly, trying to find answers to all of the questions I had. I literally could not wait to find out what happened to the point I was even reading in classes. I was afraid that I’d be less interested the second time around because I already knew the ending, but that wasn’t the case. I sped through it a second time, too, marking down all of the foreshadowing I could find. It was fascinating to see all of the little Easter eggs I had missed the first time around, making it feel like the Big Reveal was right in front of me the whole time. And the ending was just as heartbreaking the second time, in case you’re wondering.
I loved Gat just as much the second time. Yes, yes, I’m a sucker for the poetic types. Sorry. But I did love him, and I related to his character in a lot of ways. I have often felt the way he feels when surrounded by people like Cady’s family. I liked that he’s able to help Cady and her cousins see their own privilege and obliviousness about their class and the world around them.
Overall, this book had a lot of commentary on greed and internal family issues I don’t see often, or at least not in seriousness. Cady comes from a wealthy family. I mean, hell, they have their own island they spend each summer on. Through her flashbacks, Cady reflects on how she and her cousins begin to recognize their own privilege, especially after their parents begin to fight over who will inherit what from the cousins’ grandfather. The grandfather eggs them along; for example, telling both Cady and her cousin that their respective mothers will receive the big house, just to cause more strife between the sisters. This seems like unnecessary drama, and it is, but it’s also reality for some families. (Listen, ya’ll, not to get personal here, but my grandmother passed away last summer and my aunts and uncles literally fought for months over a trailer in a trailer park. A trailer. Now imagine if there’d been an island with a huge fancy house up for grabs.) As sad and awful as it can be, it was actually nice for me to read about the realities and effects of internal family fighting, grudges, and pure spite. Though Cady and her cousins might not have made the best decision regarding this mess, I liked that they took actions into their own hands because they knew they couldn’t trust the adults with anything. And boy did they go right to the source of it all. (Tip-toing along the spoiler line. Sorry.)
One thing I didn’t love about this book was some of Cady’s internal monologues and reflections. I liked the darkness of it all, because she’s in a dark situation and it makes sense. But they could sometimes verge on overdramatic or whining. It seems weird writing that, because the situation is Very Bad, and does call for a healthy dose of sadness and brooding. I think it was more the way that these monologues could be written than what they actually reflected that had them verging on, well, kind of annoying. But overall, I really loved Cady’s character and thought Lockhart did a wonderful job at expressing a teen’s reaction to that kind of trauma.
I try to keep my reviews spoiler free, but I have one other thing I just have to mention, and it’s a huge spoiler. Skip the next paragraph if you don’t want any spoilers!
Okay, real quick: one thing I don’t quite understand is why Cady lit the fire on the bottom floor of the house first? That still makes no sense to me. She could have at least waited until the attic/top floor had been doused in grease and her cousin had started coming down before lighting the first floor, which they all had to pass through to get out. I just feel like the whole tragedy could have been easily prevented, and that does take away from the book a bit for me.
Also, another quick, small spoiler: I do want to let ya’ll know that dogs die in this book. I know a lot of people will avoid books with dog/animal deaths, so I thought it was important to mention.
Even the second time around, I really loved this book. The first read, I loved the mystery and drama. I immediately had questions I desperately wanted answers to and got even more questions before answers. I sped through to the end. The second read, I made note of all of the foreshadowing and themes. Even though I had my answers the second time around, I still raced to the end of the book. It was just as invested in the story and characters as I was the first time. It was just as good, and just as heartbreaking, the second time.
“He did not even look back at the castle that had been his home.
There, he would never even have a name.
Now, he was free to go forth and make a name for himself in the wide, wide world.
And maybe, just maybe, he’d come back one day, and burn that fucking palace to the ground.”
Recommend for fans of: Turtles All the Way Down and Looking for Alaska by John Green, We Are Okay by Nina LaCour, All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater.
Thanks for reading!
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