“We Were Liars” (2014) by E. Lockhart

YA novel, published by Hot Key Books, May 2014, 225 pages. ISBN: 978-1-4714-0398-9.
We Were Liars Book | Prose & Paper

We Were Liars had been on my Amazon wish list for more than six years. After its publication in 2014, the YA novel spent quite some time on bestseller lists. Then again in 2020 – because of TikTok. The book had become viral on BookTok and I purchased it when a friend recommended it to me. It finally made it off my wish list and onto my bookshelf.

The story is told by teenager Cadence Sinclair Eastman. She is from a wealthy family and the eldest grandchild of Harris Sinclair, the controlling patriarch of the Sinclair clan. The family spends their summers on Beechwood Island, which they own, and Cady, Gat Patil and her cousins Mirren and Johnny spend most of it together, becoming known to the family as “The Liars”.

As the story progresses, we learn that one summer, Cady suffers a serious head injury. Only, she doesn’t remember what happened. For two years, she unsuccessfully tries to get any memories of that one faithful summer night back – until she gets back to the island again. The atmosphere changes slowly to one of mystery since Cady doesn’t get any answers to her questions about that summer and about what had happened. When she finally does, at the end of the book, she is shocked. As is the reader. Well, as was I (some other readers found it to be rather predictable). I will not tell you about the ending in case you haven’t read the book yet but I can tell you that I was genuinely surprised.

Now, although I had purchased a print copy of the book, I discovered the story on BookBeat as well, so I decided to listen to it. In this case, however, I would recommend to read the book than to listen to it. For me, the narrator in this audiobook did not quite capture the atmosphere of mystery, and I found the change of tone when different people spoke to be quite distracting.

We Were Liars Audiobook | Prose & Paper

Overall, the book reminded me too much of many films I have seen and books I have read. It is plot-driven rather than character-driven, and I personally prefer the latter. Since there is no character development or any real backstory to any of the characters, I found it hard to care for any of them. Plus: Why exactly are the cousins called “The Liars” and how is it important to the story? Is this a reference to the family secrets? I am still not sure about it.

And even though the book is about one fatal mistake, there are no real consequences for the person that had made the mistake. Why is that? Well, it is because that person is wealthy. So really, for me, the book is about spoiled wealthy people whose mistakes, even fatal ones, do not have any consequences at all. Or at least none that have any real impact on their lives. And to be honest, I do not particularly enjoy reading about how white wealthy people get away with everything. If I want to read about that, I could just as well open a newspaper.

The book addresses quite a few interesting topics – e.g. first love, family secrets, legacy, tragedy, trauma – but only superficially which I found disappointing. Needless to say I will not read the prequel, Family of Liars.