Review: We Were Liars

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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.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.


If you read the reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, We Were Liars seems to have everyone in conflict. Some people have given it 1 star, saying it was superficial and shallow with little plot and an annoying writing style. Other have given it 5 stars, saying that they have been crying for the last 3 hours. So, what this basically all means is that We Were Liars is a love-it or hate-it book. You take a risk by reading it, because you could absolutely love it, or you could gamble 3 hours of your life reading a book that you’ll absolutely hate.

Before, I start, I state my contention by saying that I loved We Were Liars. I’m part of the group that raves on and on about how they’ve been crying for the last 3 hours.

It’s interesting, because when I first read this book, I thing that struck me first was her writing style. Occasionally, the writing style will change,

and she

will write like

this. With separate

sentences

spread out over many lines.

I have to disagree with the reviewers on Goodreads who say that E. Lockhart does it for “no reason”, because nothing ever happens in a book for “no reason” (otherwise it would be pretty quickly deleted by the editor). The writing style only happens at various turning points in her life, for example, when her father leaves. This kind of disjointed, un-punctuated, spread out writing adds drama, and symbolises her separation from what’s happening, as if her mind can’t keep up. I really enjoyed this writing style, and thought that it was unique and brilliant. Obviously, some people don’t agree with that, and they feel that it is annoying, tedious and pointless. It’s really just a matter of reader preference, but I really do recommend you get the book from your local library, read the first 10 pages and stop it if you don’t like it there.

Another thing that I noticed about We Were Liars is the vivid use of metaphors and personification. The first time that a major metaphor is used is on Page 5 (if you have a paperback with the same cover as above) when Clarence’s father leaves the household:

“My father put a last suitcase into the backseat of the Mercedes, and started the engine.

Then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest. I was standing not 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.”

When I first read this, I actually thought it was real, and that the book had taken a massive twist where the father suddenly revealed his true psychopathic path and shady connections with the dodgy mafia. But then:

“Mother snapped. She said to get a hold of myself.

Be normal, now, she said. Right now, she said”

This was the first sign that certain intense events throughout the book were not going to be real. I really liked the use of metaphors and vivid imagery. I thought that it brought colour and flair to the book, branding it as a Unique E. Lockhart Book. Obviously, this was not the case with everybody and some people complained that it was confusing and they couldn’t really understand the difference, which I don’t really agree with (oh wow, her father just shot her, this must be real). I do believe, however, that E Lockhart was going for a magic realism kind of style when she included the metaphors, and she has certainly succeeded.

Among the metaphors, there is also scattered segments of personification, especially when Clarence feels sadness of pain. This personification, married with the metaphors take the book to a whole new level. Her sadness can be a wave, a bullet or a knife. Her pain can be a witch, a giant or a crone, hacking away at her head with an axe, a statue or sharpened fingernails. The personification was amazingly done, and stunningly beautiful.

With the generous use of the word “Welcome” at the entrance of the novel, the general feel of the book is like you have been invited into their house:

You have arrived at their house and Clarence opens the door. She smiles and gestures her way to the magnificent hall. “Come in”, she says, as her sweeping arms hold the door open. You walk in and your feet sink into the deep carpet. You are a guest at their house, a lodger at a grand hotel. She beckons, “Come with me. Your room is just around the corner”. You follow her and suddenly the lights flicker. The chandelier dims and the lights cut. “Don’t worry”, she says. “Just a blackout”. She takes a candle from the pocket of her skirt and a packet of well used matches from the other. “We get them all the time.” Holding the candle, she moves down the hallway, illuminating only a small distance in front of her. You walk close as not to lose her in the maze-like corridors or the house. She suddenly sweeps her hand to the left, throwing light upon a picture of a family. “Welcome”, she says, “to the Beautiful Sinclair Family”.

As you walk down the hall, she shows you pictures of her life, documented between the glass of the frames.

“This was when my father left. He shot me as he drove away, right in my throbbing heart.”

“This was when I first kissed Gat.”

“This was when I had my accident.”

As you move down the hallway, you learn more and more about her life. She takes you down her lane of memories.

When the book ends, you will feel compelled to re-read it, because E Lockhart has foreshadowed the twist ending all the way through, with a certain comment here, or a subtle action there. Some people say that they “guessed the ending 25% into the book” but I don’t understand how. It was just too sad to guess, too unpredictable. John Green has commented on this book (see the cover above) and I can certainly understand why. This is John Green’s kind of book. The sad, I-don’t-care-if-they’re-one-of-the-main-characters-I-can-still-kill-them kind of book. I did think it was sadder than The Fault In Our Stars though, and that was pretty damn sad. Please don’t read this book if you cry easily, because the tears will leave you dangerously dehydrated.

This is the story of a damaged girl trying to gather the broken fragments of her shattered life, as her family crumbles and her relationships disintegrate, all within the seemingly nuclear, Beautiful Sinclair Family. Haunting, elegant and startlingly real, We Were Liars will linger long after the last page has been turned.


Rating:  10/10


We Were Liars is out now. Buy at your local bookstore.


The Info:

  • Title: We Were Liars
  • Author: Emily Lockhart
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press (May 13th, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038574126X
  • URL: Amazon, Goodreads
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9 thoughts on “Review: We Were Liars

  1. Pingback: Annoying Characters, But Great Writing… I’m So Torn! – The Galaxial Word

  2. Pingback: Review: The Light that Gets Lost | The Galaxial Word

  3. Yup- love it or hate it seems accurate. I’m glad to see you’re in the “love it” camp, cos I loved it too. Completely agree that nothing in this book is for no reason- the fragmentary style definitely gives you a sense of her disintegrating mental state

    Like

  4. This is a phenomenal review!
    This book has been recommended to me multiple times and I keep hearing about it, but haven’t had time to go pick it up. It sounds so intriguing and intense.
    As weird and different as the separated sentences might be, I agree that it will add to the story. I am an easier crier, but after reading this review I really want to give it a shot!

    Like

  5. Pingback: I’ll Give You The Sun | The Galaxial Word

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