Friday, 1 August 2014

My Thoughts On: We Were Liars by E Lockheart

Hello my dear readers,

'We Were Liars' is subject for review today! Hope you enjoy. 

We are the Liars. We are beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury. We are cracked and broken. A story of love and romance. A tale of tragedy. Which are lies? Which is truth?

Like many of the reads I've reviewed recently, there was a certain mysterious hype surrounding this book. I knew very little about it - but had heard several good reviews - so was naturally eager to throw myself into it. Having never had much luck with American authors in particular, I had high expectations for a likeable voice, largely free of cliches that packed a punch at the end. With a 'wow', I closed the book (or shut down my Kindle, whatever floats your boat) satisfied I'd found it - bar a few tiny details.

There was something 'Famous Five' esque about 'We Were Liars.' A large, seemingly rich and perfect family holidaying on a private island every summer for decades. Of course, the premise doesn't mean you should mistake it for a light, summery read. Don't let the short 228 pages fool you. What I especially liked about the setting though, was the atmosphere that came with it. As I reader I felt as though I'd been visiting the island for many summers with the Sinclair family. It felt homely, despite being very different to how I usually spend my own summers, and had an old fashioned feel I loved. Perhaps the upbringing and views of the family had something to do with it; for example, Cadence calling her mother 'Mummy' despite being seventeen. I definitely felt the traditional values of the older characters contrasted effectively with the hints of modernism there to remind  me of the present setting. Things such as the iPads or Lego made the whole thing a little more relatable, so I welcomed the details Lockheart paid close attention to.

The perfect family facade was also effective. Instantly I knew something wasn't quite right with the Sinclairs and that mystery kept me reading almost from the outset. Coupled with the motive of finding out what happened regarding Cadence's 'accident,' Lockheart drew me in with several mysterious threads. The horror Cady experiences as she discovers what happened that fateful summer along with the reader is palpable and that harvested a great deal of sympathy from me to her. Lockheart's struck a good balance between characters and plot here, another reason to give 'We Were Liars' a try.

As I say, the driving plot wasn't the only stand out - the characters shine too. Each member of the large family are clearly defined, with each 'Liar' (the four teenagers) having particularly fleshed out personalities. We had Johnny: the high flying athlete who never took himself too seriously. Mirrem: the anxious, motherly figure, and Gat: the dark and mysterious 'odd one out.' There were all easily identifiable, as were many of the secondary characters such as the aunties or Cady's grandfather. Even some of the younger children occasionally stole glimmers of the spotlight. I could especially picture Taft, freckled and mischievous, often bordering on annoying. Lockheart's characterization was well crafted. There wasn't one who was simply there to bring up the numbers, they were all real people to me - a rarity in alot of today's YA.

Lastly, when I heard the ending of 'We Were Liars' described as both devastating and heartbreaking, it compelled me to see if this was true. After the disappointment of 'The Bunker Diary' I was wary this book might have a similar fate, but fortunately it lived up to high expectations. Although my brain needed a little time to catch up with my eyes, We Were Liars had the shock factor I'd been looking for. I wasn't expecting the twist - the final realization as to what happened during summer fifteen, a step further than other reveals of family secrets. Lockheart's been clever here. At some points, as a reader you believe you're in control and know exactly what's going on, when it reality it's the complete opposite, rather like Em Bailey's 'Shift' which packs a similar punch.

[Apologies if I've explained that clumsily while trying to avoid spoilers. Basically what I'm saying is, read 'We Were Liars,' for the ending if nothing else!] 

If I had to point out any criticisms, I'd have to mention what I have as 'mildly confusing' in my notes. This I believe is down to two factors, as well as the ending. One, being the sheer number of characters to keep track of. It didn't take away from the plot necessarily, but as with any large family, I often found myself forgetting who were whose children, or who was divorced from who for example. However, I soon got over this, which probably gave merit to the gripping plot. Furthermore, while Lockheart's managed to clearly distinguish between memories of summer fifteen and the present of summer seventeen, I occasionally found myself wondering what was happening in each time frame. Maybe that's down to my brain not being one for complicated plots of huge numbers of characters. More sophisticated readers may be able to keep up more easily.

Despite minor crits however, We Were Liars was thoroughly enjoyable - worth many more pennies than the 99p I paid for it!

In summary: A compelling, mysterious and atmospheric read with well-crafted characters and a heart breaking ending. A balanced, 'wow' inducing YA mystery. 4.5 stars.


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