I did not think that I would enjoy We Were Liars book much when I read the summary – it’s YA, it revolves around a beautiful and privileged family, and it had romance. However, someone I trust recommended it and I thought that if she liked it, it must, at least, be well written.
By page 5, I was hooked! Before the actual story had even started, the author had already introduced us to how she would be using lush imagery to convey what Cady, the main character, was feeling. When her father left, she didn’t just feel sad, she felt wounded:
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,
It tasted like salt and failure. The bright red shame of being unloved soaked the grass in front of our house, the bricks of the path, the steps of the porch. My heart spasmed among the peonies like a trout.
When her headaches came, they didn’t just arrive suddenly, it felt like she was being attacked:
A witch has been standing there behind me for some time, waiting for a moment of weakness. She holds an ivory statue of a goose. It is intricately carved. I turn and admire it only for a moment before she swings it with shocking force. It connects, crushing a hole in my forehead. I can feel my bone come loose. The witch swings the statue again and hits above my right ear, smashing my skull. Blow after blow she lands, until tiny flakes of bone litter the bed and mingle with chipped bits of her once-beautiful goose.
The richness of her descriptions of Cady’s pain coupled with fairy tale interludes changed this from a regular YA mystery to an incredibly striking and creative page-turner.
I can’t tell you much about this story without risking spoilers. It centers on Cady who had an accident that she doesn’t remember. Her family is privileged and has a private island that they escape to each summer, which is where the bulk of the story takes place.
At first, their privilege feels unnecessary and gratuitous. The wealth seems to be there just to allow the family to afford things. But, like the fairy tales scattered throughout, we start to learn that wealth isn’t a shield. In fact, it’s as much a burden, as anything. It’s caused infighting and created some very spoiled mothers who then try to use the kids to manipulate the patriarch of the family.
The wealth and privilege also helps to defined Gat, the outsider – he doesn’t have wealth, he’s not welcome by the family’s patriarch, and he tries to help the others (especially Cady) understand how privileged they are.
What if we could stop being different colors, different backgrounds, and just be in love?
Yes, the family seems nearly perfect at the start, but flaws start to show and we start to see how these people, despite their wealth, are just people who’ve all struggled with life over the past few years.
This is one of the most beautifully crafted books I’ve read. The twist is something we’ve all seen a thousand times before, but it still surprised me. I’m usually pretty good at predicting the ending, but this book kept me guessing. The author’s care in her choice of wording and how she unfolded the events meant that I missed many clues that, in retrospect, where pretty obvious.
I adored this book. I almost wish that I could forget it, just so that I could read it again.