Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library
Summary from Goodreads:
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
I heard crazy hype about this book for the last few months. "It's the next Gone Girl!" they said. "You won't believe the twist!" they said. Plus, the summary (above) is reminiscent of the book jacket for Chris Cleave's Little Bee, which basically tells you absolutely nothing about the novel, and implores you to never tell anyone else about the novel before they've read it. (In Little Bee's case, that description is entirely justified, so of course this piqued my interest.) I had to see for myself. To the library!
After waiting it out at #63 on the hold list, I finally got my chance at We Were Liars. And I do see why this book is so hype-worthy. From page one, you just get the sense that something is...off. I wasn't sure if it was the protagonist (Cadence), her family, the setting (a secluded private island), or all of it. But something was wrong, and I couldn't put my finger on it. That eerie feeling compelled me to plow through the book at top speed...and yes, the climactic twist made it worth it. It's one of those sudden plot changes that makes you want to go back and re-read the entire novel, because OH MY GOD, how did you not figure it out sooner?
That said...after I finished my speed-reading of the novel and had time to calm down after that rush of an ending, I did pinpoint a few things that I was a bit iffy on. I can't go into too much detail (spoiler-free zone), but despite the amazingness of the big ending, I realized later that there were an awful lot of convenient details that caused that twist to happen. Things that were ignored by the characters (or the author) that allowed that big event to be possible. Thus, it all felt a little too neat, given the gravity of the circumstances. I think this, more than anything, identified the book squarely in the YA genre for me, rather than giving it the ability to overlap with adult fiction. I'm not trying to trash YA, but in general, those books tend to wrap things up more cleanly for a younger reading audience, versus the ambiguity that is more typical in adult novels.
This convenience factor was the only significant downside for me. A smaller caveat was the overly-dramatic style of Cadence's narrative--she was always melting into puddles or bleeding on someone (figuratively, of course) and I started to roll my eyes a bit at the unnecessarily theatrical descriptions that were fairly constant in the text. However, these did get less glaring as the novel went on, likely because the plot action picked up to a pace that started to match her emotional upheavals.
Final verdict on this hit novel of the summer? Yes, I think you should read We Were Liars. It's short and fast-paced, great for a beach read. And the twist is 100% as good as the critics say. Stylistically, it leaves a bit to be desired, which places it below a suspense novel like Gone Girl for me. But if you want a novel that's going to keep you on your toes, it's an awesome pick.