We Were Liars
2014 – YA – Realistic Fiction
The Story: Cadence belongs to the Sinclair family. Wealthy, put-together, and perfect – or so they seem. Each summer, the family gathers on their private island. Cady and her three cousins play tennis, go sailing, swim, and more. But one summer, Cady has an accident. An accident that she can’t remember, that her family won’t talk about. When she returns to the island two summers later, her memories begin to return and truth begins to surface.
The Opening Line: Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.
What I Loved: Books that have unreliable narrators always get me. These types of books really allow readers a glimpse into the mind of the narrator, as stable or unstable as that might be. We aren’t privy to information that the narrator doesn’t get. We are forced to piece together the story at the same pace, which is always a crazy, confusing, dizzying ride for me. These are the books that impact me the most emotionally and make me think the hardest. And Cady is one of the best unreliable narrators I’ve seen in a while.
What I Didn’t Love: The Sinclair family is shallow and I didn’t like a single adult in the book. It was really hard to feel sympathetic for Cady’s mom and aunts, all of whom were fighting over family possessions and inheritances because they had spent all the money in their trust funds but didn’t want to get jobs. The manipulative, controlling grandfather didn’t help, with his constant threats to disinherit anyone who wouldn’t do his bidding.
Fellowship of the Worms Questions (Serious Spoilers Ahead – Caution!!!):
1. Normally I attempt to work through these questions chronologically, but I simply can’t help myself. Was anybody well and truly shocked by the revelation at the end of this book? You know, I picked up bits and pieces along the way that made me think something was going on. But I’ve never been a great detective, so I actually was surprised a bit. Which I think was actually pretty great, because the book is written from Cady’s point of view. She was such an unreliable narrator that I truly felt I was uncovering the truth with her. It was a really effective look into how she might have felt.
2. That said, do you think Cadence was lying about interacting with dead people? Having full on hallucinations? Or, you know, were there legit ghosts hanging around? I think she needed to see them. Were they real? I don’t think so. But they were to her. And whatever the reason, they did truly help her recover her memory, uncover the truth about summer 15.
3. Despite the tragic end of the crime perpetrated by the Liars, did they in any way succeed in their goals? I don’t know. Gat probably would have said yes, but then again, Gat isn’t saying much of anything these days, is he? In a way, it forced them to confront some of the issues that were plaguing them, but at the same time, it served to make them more broken. Because they were fake and manipulative and shallow as hell, but now their kids are dead, so are things any better? No.
4. Did you like the allusions to King Lear, Wuthering Heights, and fairy tales, or did you find them distracting? I always like book references. It’s kind of my thing. I didn’t explore the connections between the plot and these classic stories much, so I won’t go there. But it’s always nice to have characters who read and who use those books to make sense of their own world. Because in a way, isn’t that what we do?
5. The Sinclairs own their own island and have named all the houses on it. Clairmont, Windmere, Red Gate, and (gag) Cuddledown. Would you ever name your home? Maybe. I like the idea of having an estate with a name. It would be better if it also included some land, maybe a couple other things situated nearby. Just so it isn’t pretentious. I think of farms a lot when I hear of homes with names, simply because I live in Lexington, KY, home of tons of horse farms. But yeah, I think I would name my home. Something good though. And not in a pretentious way.