We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

If the cover leads you to believe this is a cute & contemporary book, don’t be fooled. It’s a suspenseful, poetic, tense little ball of fire unwinding in your face.

It’s a young adult book where the main character gets amnesia, but it’s not an amnesia story.

It takes place on a beach filled with privately owned beach houses, but it’s not a beach read.

It’s loosely inspired by other classics & recent releases such as King Lear, Tom Sawyer, Wurthering Heights, & The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. But it’s original.

The book is filled with mini fairy-tales in between chapters. I heard somewhere that the best way to describe this book is by using your favorite fairy-tale from it.

“One day, when the young ladies were of age to be married, a terrible, three-headed dragon laid siege to the kingdom, burning villages with fiery breath. It spoiled crops and burned churches. It killed babies, old people, and everyone in between.
…He sent his eldest daughter to beg the dragon for mercy, but the dragon listened to not a word of her pleas. It swallowed her whole.  Then the king sent his second daughter to beg the dragon for mercy, but the dragon did the same. Swallowed her before she could get a word out.  The king then sent his youngest daughter to beg the dragon for mercy, and she was so lovely and clever that he was sure she would succeed where the others had perished. No indeed. The dragon simply ate her.
The king was left aching with regret. He was now alone in the world.
Now, let me ask you this. Who killed the girls?
The dragon? Or their father?”

Some last points to convince you to read this book. The inside cover page has a cute little map drawn in it. I’m a sucker for maps. It also has a tiny family tree. The book is ridiculously short, but manages to span several years. It’s a quick & engaging read. I cried. Plus the author is super cool, & has a tattoo form “The Lady of Shalott” on her arm.

If you haven’t read the book, stop reading now. Because shit’s about to get spoilery.


I started this book a bit bummed because I thought the characters were another bunch of spoiled rich New England types. But the story is really an aim against materialism, prejudice, & class privilege in general. Lockhart, aka Emily Jenkins, has said she feels both adoration & disgust from her own experiences summering at Martha’s Vineyard as a child. So my question is, did you feel it achieved the disgust? At certain points, you really feel the adoration kick it. It’s almost like when novelists try to accurately portray drug using or death & end up romanticizing it a little. Do these things inherently carry little bit of romanticizing otherwise they wouldn’t even need to be battled against?

What I think the story really accomplished in such a short amount of pages were certain family dynamics. Divvying up possessions is a fairly common way of displaying this competitive side, but really all families are competitive in some way. When Jonathan Franzen wrote Freedom, he said he didn’t want to write specifically about family, but about competition & what better way to demonstrate that then within a family?

I love her writing style. I’d tried to read The Boyfriend List in the past & hated it. But this is much more of a fit for me. Short, quick sentences. Suspenseful & slightly metaphorical word choices. The character descriptions were wonderful. “Gat seemed spring-loaded” or Johnny being “bounce, effort, and snark.” It creates not just an idea of who they are, but their physical appearance, & how she feels about them.

The Twist. Capital T. I’ll admit, I tried to guess it a few times. I was discouraged because I read of a number of readers who were able to guess it & it ruined the ending a bit for them, so I was worried it might be a predictable twist. Which in a way it sort of is. I mean, it’s definitely been done before, but I wasn’t expecting it with this plot.

As for whether the liars are hallucinations or ghosts, I didn’t even think of the possibility they could be ghosts until I saw some posts online saying this theory. I figured Cadence is on so many drugs, she just lost thinking with anything related to that night. However, I definitely think there is significant evidence that they could be ghosts as well. Taft saying Windemere is haunted, in the same conversation he mentions Cadence is a drug addict leads me to believe that both are meant to be supported.

The other hints along the way didn’t even register to me. Maybe because I sped through this book so quickly I did it in one sitting. The fact that they’re wearing the same clothes from years back, or they’re absence of fear while jumping off the rocks.

I somehow missed all of this & thought they were just really pissed at Cadence for something she did to Gat. Actually my running theory for a while was that they were having sex on the dock & her grandfather found them & she tried to frame him for rape, but it didn’t even make sense, because why on Earth would they let Gat back on the island after that?

So did you like the surprise ending? I recently watched Gone Girl & have been in a bit of a twisty phase lately. In fact, the author said Gone girl inspired her to write a book with a twist in it. Did she succeed for you?

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17 thoughts on “We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

  1. Great review! The author definitely did succeed for me – I didn’t see the twist coming at all. I had been thinking that Cadence’s memory loss was related to abuse by her grandfather, and I was obviously completely wrong! I didn’t pick up on any of the hints, so when the twist finally came I felt like it knocked all the air out of me, I cried so much!! I’d not read any other books with that kind of twist before, although I recently read another YA book which has exactly the same twist, (but I won’t mention the title unless I spoil it for anyone!) The ghost theory is definitely interesting, I hadn’t thought of that at all, but I think it could make sense, especially as (if I’m remembering correctly) she continues to see them one last time even after she’s remembered what really happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I cried too! When my friend who read it didn’t cry, I wondered how she could’ve possibly not had that reaction. I think the fact that we thought they weren’t ghosts made it more upsetting haha

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I think you’re right about that – it’s much more devastating to think that they were never there at all! I know, the people I recommended it too didn’t cry either… But I was a total mess!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have so many mixed feelings about this book. The end was a total surprise! I read the book so fast that I didn’t have a lot of time to stop and predict what might have happened. I also had that “rape” theory, but it didn’t feel right to me either. And I ended up missing all the clues that other people recognized as well. At the end I kind of felt depressed and didn’t read anything for a few weeks, so that kind of sucked 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re not alone /: What was your main problem with it? I’m always curious why some books work for some & not others. I love that you still have something nice to say about it though hahaa, I love the cover too. Although it definitely makes it look like more of a beach read

      Liked by 1 person

      • Finding out the plot twist at the end was one thing that I found upsetting. And then I just thought everyone was pretentious, which I guess is the point, but I just couldn’t stand it.
        Thank you. 😀 It’s something I’m working on, making sure I say at least one good thing about a book I didn’t like. It’s hard!
        It’s true, it does. It’s a bit misleading.

        Liked by 1 person

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