Book Review: We Were Liars

In a novel by E. Lockhart, the hidden tragedies that lay behind the infamously wealthy Sinclair family are unveiled by its eldest, Cadence Sinclair.


photo by Julia Poppa

Alyssa Bruce, Staff Writer

At first glance, the Sinclairs appear to be an impeccable family, coming together every summer on their own private island. Wealth, looks, and power. They seemingly have it all, from an outsider’s point of view.

However, Cadence Sinclair, the heir to the family’s inheritance, narrates the various issues that are prevalent in the relatives, although kept hidden to others.

We Were Liars is one of the most notable books written by E. Lockhart, whose work also includes The Ruby Oliver quartet. Winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards Best Young Adult Fiction, We Were Liars is unlike Lockhart’s other novels in that it is full of perfect lies, all covering up the major plot twist revealed at the conclusion of the story.

The novel starts with an introduction to the family’s perfection. Soon after this description, Cadence reveals that her father left her and her mother. Despite all the pain that she is feeling, her mother tells her to cover it up, because Sinclairs don’t hurt. They simply buy new items to replace the old ones and projects a fake smile. The introductory chapter, although somewhat confusing, sets the novel’s tone of hidden secrets, which will come to play an immense role in the plot twist later on.

Upon the return of Cadence and her mother to the summer island, the other characters are revealed. Immediately, the reader can tell that she has fallen in love with Gat, the nephew of her aunt’s boyfriend. The hatred in the family is exemplified even more so when Grandfather Sinclair threatens to take away Cadences inheritance after he finds out that she is involved with a “brown boy”.

The plot then takes an initially confusing turn that will define the majority of the book. The narrator reflects on her “accident”. Nothing more is said, aside from the fact that she was found swimming late at night, naked and alone. The incident has left her with throbbing headaches, memory loss, and a constant sick feeling. The reader knows so little, because Cadence herself knows so little. The doctors want her to remember why the accident occurred on her own merit. What makes her feel worse than not knowing is that Gat and her two cousins, Johnny and Mirren, won’t answer her calls or texts.

Throughout the novel, Lockhart creates a bond between the reader and Cadence because both are equally as confused and wishful for the truth to be revealed. Upon her return to the island the next summer, the confusion is amplified. The entire family is acting strangely, careful not to reveal the truth to her. The once-close group, Cadence, Gat, Johnny, and Mirren, still hang out, but something is different, even darker. 

Throughout the summer, tensions are high.  The novel does an incredible job of increasing tensions, all leading up to the pivotal point where the truth is revealed. 

Regarding the conclusion of the story, the author does a great job of managing to not leave any holes in the book. Every misconception is cleaned up perfectly.

We Were Liars is different when compared to the average summer read. Hidden beneath the sun and wealth, there is a darkness to it. To say that the truth is unpredictable would be an understatement. For those who enjoy major plot twists, Lockhart’s novel fits the category perfectly.