5 out of 5 stars
NO SPOILERS AHEAD!
It’s been a long time since I read a whole book in one sitting. But We Were Liars kept me glued to the sofa reading for most of the day (bathroom breaks are allowed!). I was looking for something light. A summer read, as they call it. I needed a break from The Silent History which is not a bad book but a very very slow one.
So, We Were Liars was my choice for the light summer read. And I was kind of wrong about my categorization there. Because though it might be a quick one (only about 250 pages with a lot of white space) it is not your typical “fun beach read”.
The book is advertised with the line “Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.” and that is actually good advice. And really good marketing because that is what made me want to read it. Oh look, a secret! I have to know! However, it also made me try to figure out what the big twist was going to be while reading. I think the impact of the twist ending would have been a lot bigger if I hadn’t been warned that there would be one.
Going along with the marketing strategy I am of course not going to spoil the ending for everyone! What I am going to tell you is this: This is a story of four teenagers from a wealthy upper-class family from Massachusetts. They spend all their summers on their grandfather’s private island having fun and gradually growing up. The blurb sums up the plot fairly well: “A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies.”
Since I cannot talk about the plot any further without revealing too much, I will tell you what I liked about this novel. It is categorized as YA but the writing style is really beautiful, sometimes verging on the sophisticated. I loved how the protagonist’s /narrator’s feelings are often described in beautifully violent and physical images.
For instance, this is how Cadence, the narrator describes what it felt like when her father left the family:
“Then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell. The bullet hole opened wide and my heart rolled out of my rib cage and down into a flower bed. Blood gushed rhythmically from my open wound, then from my eyes, my ears, my mouth. It tasted like salt and failure.”
Here’s another one I quite liked for its drama:
“Every time Gat said these things, so casual and truthful, so oblivious—my veins opened. My wrists split. I bled down my palms. I went light-headed. I’d stagger from the table or collapse in quiet shameful agony, hoping no one in the family would notice.”
As a reader you are trapped inside Cadence’s head just as much as she is. We can only piece together the events from the fragments she knows. Together with that imagery of blood and wounds this makes for sometimes claustrophobic, sometimes heart-wrenching reading. I know a lot of people dislike the style of this novel and admittedly, it is peculiar and different. But this is actually what I liked about it.
The characters may sometimes seem like caricatures of the West-coast upper-classes. I was constantly reminded of Lorelai’s parents from Gilmore Girls. Once a character even stated that the ancestors of the family came to America on the Mayflower. I was only waiting for them to start talking about debutantes and the Daughters of the American Revolution – fortunately that did not happen. Apart from this tiny flaw it was a great read. It has suspense and authentic emotions (even if the same cannot always be said about the characters).
We Were Liars is a great and fast read that actually can keep its advertising promise.