Friday, November 21, 2014


(review based on an advance reading copy)

Recently I did a post about rating books and why I’m not particularly fond of simple 1-5 star systems, etc. WE WERE LIARS puts me in mind of yet another reason that I don’t thinks stars adequately summarize your reaction to a book: sometimes your rating fluctuates over the course of reading. How do you average that? After finishing WE WERE LIARS I would give it 5 out of 5 stars, but up until page 150 (out of 225) I would have given it only 2 or maybe 3.

WE WERE LIARS rewards you well if you stick with it, but - for me at least - wasn’t initially engaging. Numerous people raved, fanatically raved, about WE WERE LIARS to me (which might have set me up with overhyped expectations), but I found the book quite unexceptional until around page 150. (That’s two thirds of the way through the 225 page book.)

I went into WE WERE LIARS knowing next to nothing about the premise. Well, the marketing (including the blurb on back) doesn’t tell you much. In truth, this novel is probably a little more suspense orientated than my tastes run. I like to know what happened, because I care more about how the characters react. For the first two thirds, WE WERE LIARS focuses mostly on the mystery of not knowing what happened and it’s no coincidence that I only started investing after the big reveal.

So here’s how I would describe the premise: This story follows the teenager Cady (short for Cadence), and her rich, beautiful fa├žade of a family. Every summer the Sinclairs gather on their private island where Cady soaks up the company of her beloved cousins Mirren and Johnny, and steadily falls in love with their childhood family friend Gat. Except that was the past. Something happened one summer. Something that changed everything. All Cady knows is that something bad happened, she hit her head, and now she remembers very little from that summer at all, especially not whatever she’s sure she needs to remember. The first 150 pages of the book focus on introducing these characters and Cady’s search for answers. Honestly, I felt like most of that could have been cut.

Then Cady remembers, layer by layer, and suddenly I understood why people rave about this book. All that material I thought could have been cut immediately takes on new meaning with each additional memory. (I’m not one for re-reading books, but this is probably a good one to go back and re-read right away after finishing.) Themes that seemed perhaps underdeveloped snap into sharp focus. I connected both emotionally and intellectually and I kept turning over the story in mind after finishing the book.

WE WERE LIARS is incredibly worthy of discussion, so I wish I could say more, but - as the story is so slow to reveal anything - it would be giving away too much to even start talking themes or dropping hints by my choice of adjectives. Instead I’ll repeat that WE WERE LIARS well rewards those who stick with it.

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