Review: We Were Liars

We Were Liars was recommended to me by my Aunt, with the comment “It’s a young adult, but it’ll break your heart.” I tried not to laugh at the “it’s YA but…” comment because, lets be honest, my reading list is mostly YA. So I bought We Were Liars by E.Lockhart on Kindle and it’s sat there for a few weeks or possibly months, who can even tell? I started writing this review last weekend, and for some reason didn’t finish so let’s try this review again!

We were liars is about Candence Sinclair, who experienced an accident  on her families private island Summer Fifteen, and suffers from terrible migraines because of it. Sinclairs have Mottos. They have Rules. They have family laws that are abided by. There are four teenagers in the Sinclairs, called the Liars – there is Candence, the oldest, the heir, her male cousin who missed out by a few months, his best friend and cousin the passionate and political boy, and Candence’s brilliant female cousin. Two girls, two boys. Three related, one not. Bought up together on idyllic summers where the world beyond the island doesn’t exist. Then Candence’s accident happens, and the summers spent with the Liars come to a grinding halt.

If anyone asks you to tell them how this story ends. Just Lie.

We Were Liars begins in fits and starts. The beginning of the book is Summer 16, when Candence is returning to the Sinclair island. The true beginning of the story is the summer they became the Liars, when they were all children on the island. It’s a story fed in whispers and in guesswork – a veritable consolidation of hearsay and a slow realisation of What Happened. It’s stories embedded within stories, the lies we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better, to assuage any guilt that might be felt.

Candence is in love with her cousin’s best friend, but it’s summer love that spills over edges into the real world but doesn’t fully engage until they are back on the island. It’s loss and heartache and emotion that is personified and reaches across the page to create feelings of loneliness, of loss, of anger, of frustration, of love, of desperation, of denial.

I will admit there was a slow section, where I wondered whether the point of the entire book was that she had absolutely awful migraines and her family were standoffish – and that she had major problems connecting with absolutely anything beyond the Liars – but it’s so much more than that. The lies that are drip-fed and turn into truths and what the truth can do – it all comes to a head and THAT is the entire point, that you can deny things for only so long.

This is technically a YA book, and it features many elements of a YA novel – there is love, heartbreak, guilt. But it’s also a harrowing personification of emotions, how they’re a mess. It’s got one of the best descriptions of experiencing migraines that I have ever read and never been able to verbalize myself. It’s an interesting style of book
with sentences
spilt
into chunks
that topple
from line
to line.
Fairytales are used repeatedly to re-imagine the relationships between the characters, over and over and over – re-iterating that sense that the truth and lies are so tangled in this family, on this island that no one is above suspicion.

We Were Liars has justifiably won many awards since it was published in 2014. But while the end has you gaping like a fish with tears in your eyes, there are bits of it when you wonder where the story is going, where you consider putting it down and reading something a little jollier. Keep going. Keep battling through the self-pity and the self-loathing and the loathing of everything the Sinclair family stand for. Keep going.

And if anyone asks you what the ending is – you lie.

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