Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


I’m sure everyone is already well aware of this book. It has done the rounds on YouTube and other book related platforms for months! It seemed for a period of time I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing it either online or displayed at the front of every book shop.

After the continuous media coverage, combined with a multitude of top star reviews, I decided to finally get around to reading it. Fancying something lighter in tone and shorter than the books I have been studying for University, combined with the increasing amount of passing time since I’d read a YA novel, this seemed like a logical choice.

Lockhart’s novel tells the story of Cadence Sinclair, granddaughter to the wealthy Harris Sinclair, a man to whom familial respect and traditional high society values means everything. The majority of the novel takes place on Beechwood, the Sinclair family’s private island. Cadence spends her summer here with her family, including a large selection of cousins (fear not, a handy family tree is provided at the novels start).  Two of these cousins, and a third boy (the nephew of a man one of Cadence’s aunt’s is romantically involved with), form a close knit group Cadence refers to as the ‘Liars’. Yet something happens to Cadence one summer, resulting in a head injury that leaves her suffering from crippling migraines and with the memories of that fateful summer missing. What follows is Cadence’s return to the island after summers spent recovering, and her attempts to piece together her memories and the events that she is aware her family, and even the Liars, are hiding from her.

Helpful Sinclair family tree…

I have seen numerous people refer to this book as a YA version along the lines of Gone Girl and The Girl on The Train. I would probably agree with this statement, as the use of mystery and the massive twist Lockhart discloses to readers at the novels end are reminiscent of this. While I managed to guess both of the mysteries within the previously mentioned books, I will admit that the ending  here did take me pleasantly by surprise. That is to say, I am pleased that I remained mystified, NOT pleased at the events that unfold, as you will understand if you read this book yourself….

Whilst I felt the first half of this book was rather slow paced, the second half definitely increased in speed, and so did my resulting interest. The closer Cadence got to recovering her memories, the more and more I enjoyed this book.

However, there were aspects of this novel I really did not enjoy. I think the biggest issue I personally faced in this book was the writing style.  I have not read any of Lockhart’s other works, so I cannot compare this to her other works, but in this novel the writing style and I really DID NOT agree. I felt as if the author was trying to make her writing poetical, and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with this. Yet my entire reading of the book made me feel as if she were trying overly hard to achieve a poetic prose, with the resulting style offering no real value to the book, except to drive me crazy.  For instance, this is just one example:

‘We were warm and shivering,

And young and ancient,

And alive.’ P. 24.


The entire novel feels saturated with these breaks in the prose.

It would be,

Like me writing,

In this way,

For this entire review,

Driving you slowly,

To madness.

I couldn’t help but feel that if the ideas and plot had been given to another writer, the resulting product could potentially have been executed to a much more enjoyable experience (in my personal opinion).

The second issue I struggled to overcome was my dislike for the actual Sinclair family, including our narrator Cadence. I understand the writer is trying to convey to us just how affluent and perfect the family appears to unknowing outsiders, but Cadence’s multiple references to the ‘beautiful’ and ‘privileged’ Sinclair family really aggravated me. Perhaps it is the fact that I come from a working class family, and so harbour a Freudian style subconscious jealousy, but the family had barely any redeemable qualities for me! They live on their island, not even knowing the names of the various staff they employee yearly, putting their ‘privileged’ lifestyle to no better use than collecting materialistic objects and arguing over who will inherit the money, fearing the depletion of trust funds. Although Cadence and the grandchildren admittedly do not obsess over the money like the families older generations, it still takes an outsider from the family to show them how pretentious the family really is. And we all know how that ends . . .

I know that Lockhart is probably purposefully attempting to make readers feel this way about the family. Yet I did not even feel sympathy for the injured and mentally scarred Cadence. I found her rather annoying, which made it really hard for me to feel completely connected and invested in the family and their story.

Whilst I had my problematic areas of this novel, I did find this an enjoyable read, specifically the latter half of the novel. I genuinely liked the plot line and the conclusion, resulting in me giving this a 3/5 rating. Whilst I still strongly believe that the novel as a whole could have appealed to me to a greater extent with a different writing style, I did still enjoyed the plot and the twists that Lockhart has created, and would absolutely recommend this to lovers of YA and contemporary YA, especially if you are looking for a fast paced summer read.

Have you read this book? Am I the only person who really struggled with the author’s writing style?? Please let me know your thoughts! Its fascinating how vastly opinions can differ in reading.

Note – does anyone know why the novel is called We Were Liars, and why Cadence refers to herself and her cousins as the Liars??

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Rating: 3/5


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