Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

From Goodreads:
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 National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
I think it's best if I say up front that my main critique of the book could be spoilerish.  While I don't plan on actually spoiling any plot points, I feel like if I make my main argument against the book, I'll be adding to the very thing that annoyed me.  So, be warned, my last paragraph is going to be about what annoyed me most and it could be considered spoilerish, even though I won't discuss plot points.

Writing
Beautifully done for the most part.  It's a very short book, but it packs a major punch.  I liked the narrator's voice so much - I thought she was unique and multi-faceted.  She was both sympathetic and less than likable in parts, which really adds depth.  We get to know the cousins - and Gat, one aunt's boyfriend's nephew - best of all the characters.  Beyond these main four, we don't see much dimension in the other characters, which takes away somewhat from the overall quality of the writing.  The book is super short, so I felt like maybe with some more time and detail they could have been better fleshed out.

Entertainment Value
As with the writing, I'm torn on this one.  I devoured the book, but at 127 ebook pages that wasn't a difficult task.  I was enthralled with the characters and the story itself, but when it was over I wasn't left with any larger meaning.  It didn't speak to me beyond being a good story with lots of twists and turns.  In that way, it was somewhat generic.  But I don't want to downplay my enjoyment of the book either - I read it quickly and was intensely involved while I was reading it.  It just didn't speak to me on the level I was expecting - I didn't find it any more thought-provoking or memorable than any run of the mill thriller, although the writing was certainly better than many.

If you haven't read it yet, now is the time to look away (although I'm not including any plot spoilers, be aware that what I say could influence your reading experience):

If you've read any reviews or descriptions of the book (and I had), you know that the whole hook of this book is that the ending is a SUPER BIG SHOCKER.  The galley itself comes with a request on the first page that you not share plot details so as not to ruin the surprise.  Don't worry I'm not going to say what the surprise is, although it is indeed shocking.  What bothered me is that the very fact that I was anticipating a MAJOR SHOCK meant that I was not in the least bit shocked.  I spent the entire book trying to guess what the secret major twist would be, and because I knew it was coming, I guessed it about halfway through the book.  Maybe if I hadn't seen it coming, I would have been more impacted by the end.  It just kind of took away my joy and delight in discovering the twist.

Overall
This is a beautiful story of family, extreme privilege, selfishness and greed, and first love.  I think it's going to appeal to readers of contemporary YA, particularly those who have enjoyed more intense or dramatic titles along the lines of Ellen Hopkins' novels in verse or Megan Abbott's Dare Me.  It's also going to appeal to those looking for a surprise ending (the category I fell into), although, as I mentioned above, that's a double-edged sword.

Thank you to NetGalley for making a copy available for me to review!

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