By Sydney Kennedy – Student Journalist
Reading We Were Liars by E. Lockhart felt like a warm summer day, but a storm was raging outside. It felt like eating my favorite ice cream, but it was dripping all over my fingers while I was eating it. It was like being so thirsty that I dared to sip the mysterious warm water bottle left in my car. To summarize: You’re going to want to read this, but it’s going to hurt.
The brief novel takes place primarily on the dreamy and private Beechwood Island. The island, which is off the coast of Massachusetts, is owned by the esteemed, wealthy and Ivy League-obsessed Sinclair family. They own a notable amount of golden retrievers and boats to ferry to and from the island. They cherish their trust funds and languish in Victorian homes that have names. Seemingly above all else, the head of the Sinclair family values their being tall and blond.
We experience the island and Sinclair family through the eyes of narrator Cadence Sinclair Eastman. Cadence is recovering from a traumatic head injury and piecing together her memories from two summers ago with the “Liars”: cousins Mirren and Johnny and friend-turned-boyfriend Gat. The side-effects of Cadence’s accident and injury make her a somewhat unreliable narrator, but her narration is the steam engine of this gut-wrenching psychological thriller.
The deeper readers creep into a summer with the Sinclair family, the darker the truth about the adults of the family proves. As much as this is a work of young adult fiction and a psychological thriller, it is also a family drama. The initial reel of images of dedicated family bonding and delicious seafood dinners, spoils as Lockhart unravels the racism that divides families, delusional privilege and crazed materialism.
One of the most satisfying elements of the story is the Liars’ ability to see beyond their elders’ shortcomings, prejudices and feuds. While Sinclair children Cadence, Mirren and Johnny reveal their close-mindedness and lean into their privilege at several points throughout the novel, their friend Gat provides ample reality checks as a boy of Indian heritage who was raised by a single mom in New York. The Sinclair children amend their family’s short-sightedness until the very last page.
While the ending of this novel is profoundly shocking and upsetting, there is an apparent pact amongst readers who review this novel to avoid revealing too many details about its gut-wrenching ending. Once you reach the elusive twist, you will thank fellow readers for holding their tongues. But you should keep tissues handy.
This is a perfect read for heavy readers and those who seldom read due to its short and fast-paced plot. This is an especially perfect read for those who appreciate aesthetic: Think summer blues and grays, ocean breezes, salt and sunburn. Sit down, get inspired, embrace your frustration, hang on to every word and brace for the impact. This is your next unforgettable read.