Hello everyone, and welcome back!
I’ve been pretty good about tackling my backlist lately, which is always nice for making me feel like the pile of books in my house is a little more manageable. I’ve been doing a low-buy/no-buy with books lately because of the epic TBR weighing down my shelf (I have an entire small shelf for my TBR and it is beyond full), so I’ve been wanting to take some time to pare it down so that I can feel comfortable getting some more new stuff!
…I’ve also built up a little stack of books to sell/donate even though I got rid of three boxes of books just a month ago, oops.
Anyway, that said, this was a really easy, quick read to knock off and very summery, so let’s talk about it!
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
We Were Liars was a really hyped, acclaimed book from a few years ago. It’s about a rich, privileged white family that spends their summers on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts. There are three cousins (Johnny, Mirren, and the protagonist Cadence) and one aunt’s boyfriend’s nephew (Gat) who are the same age and form a friend group, the Liars. During their fifteenth summer, Cadence has some kind of accident and suffers a brain injury. Now, she’s unable to remember much of what happened that summer, and she comes back two summers later trying to figure out what happened to her.
Unlike a lot of people who weren’t super into this book, I did actually enjoy the writing style. It’s definitely not for everyone, though. It’s a lot of one-sentence paragraphs and semi-poetic breaks in sentences and lyrical descriptions. I thought it worked for the character (and the level of pretension of the whole family, let’s be real) so it worked for me. (I am also inclined to like things trying to be poetic as long as they don’t absolutely mangle meaning.)
This is a short dang book full of short paragraphs, so obviously you don’t get a lot of information in general. There’s not much by way of character depth, most scenes really drift and meld together, and motivations can’t really be discerned without someone stating them outright in dialogue. That kind of works with Cadence’s brain injury and unreliability as a narrator, but doesn’t leave the reader with a lot to work with.
But that said, this book really relies on the sort of whimsical writing style (Cadence is constantly retelling her family drama through fairy tales) and the mystery of what happened to Cadence to carry the reader through. I cared enough about that stuff to read 200+ pages, but to be fair, that didn’t really take me that long.
I’ll say this now: if you’re counting on the mystery to have a really satisfying resolution, then you might want to skip this book. It’s not one of those really deeply satisfying mysteries where it feels like everything falls into place and all the clues were there. You can more or less predict what’s going on, but there’s not really enough time spent with all of the characters or describing the setting or having actual dialogue for there to be a lot of subtle clues worth re-reading for.
This also isn’t really a book where the characters are particularly likeable. These are (other than Gat) pretty oblivious, privileged people who are fairly self-obsessed and petty. If you’re really into that whole trend of watching/reading about rich white people being opulent and ridiculous, then this will not bother you in the least. If that sounds just SIGH to you, then that’s another possible reason to skip.
Reasons not to skip? Well, it’s a quick, very summer-themed beach read, and I really do think it acknowledges how petty and self-created a lot of the issues the characters have are. If you find the mystery’s resolution unfulfilling (which I did, pretty much), you might still have some fun with the retold fairy tales and the weird, alien novelty of reading a contemporary teen novel where four fifteen-year-olds are happy to spend an entire summer having zero cell service (?).
Okay sorry but for real, I mostly enjoyed the style of this, as pretentious as it may seem at points. And it never bored me, which is somewhat surprising considering how few character moments we got. So although it certainly didn’t blow my mind, it certainly wasn’t terrible. (For me. If you hate this writing style, I must repeat, avoid.)
What are some of your favourite mysteries/thrillers? Do you have any favourite unreliable narrators? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!