Sunday, July 06, 2014

"We Were Liars" by E. Lockhart


Rich people with problems! That's one of the reasons I enjoy F. Scott Fitzgerald. He introduced me to the marred and lavish lifestyles of the rich. I do not come from old money and stately pedigree, so I will read about them instead, even if they are mostly tragedies.

I love these books because they take place on the east coast, usually on a beach where a rich family vacations. You know, stays on a small island for an entire summer, completely cut-off from the regular everyday that us commoners must face when June, July and August hit.

"We Were Liars" has all of the above, so it's no wonder I read it in one sitting. Clocking in at around 200 pages, you, too, can read it in one sitting.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is Lockhart's ability to craft an unreliable narrator. There's nothing more realistic than questioning someone's story.

The whole novel is filled with the air that something isn't quite right.

The book spans a few years, mostly taking place during the summers where three cousins and a friend gather on a family's private island and bind themselves, becoming inseparable. Cadence, Johnny, Mirren and Johnny's friend Gat all huddle together on the island while their mothers fight among themselves and drink too much wine at night, vying for the biggest piece of pie from their wealthy father.

The daughters, lazy, have coasted all of their lives on their daddy's money, and their father plays them all like a cat plays with a string. So, the mothers try to make their teenage children say and do all the right things so each daughter can end up with exactly what she wants.

But that's barely part of it. There's a romance brewing. Cadence and Gat have mini-tiffs, make eyes at each other, long for each other, don't know what to do when they are in the same room, alone, and share a lovely kiss in Cadence's grandfather's attic before he comes in and interrupts. Gat, during one summer, has a girlfriend, and Cadence isn't sure how to dance around that part of his life. And although the grandfather is polite to Gat, Gat is merely tolerated.

But that's barely part of it. There's an accident, and Cadence becomes different, almost an outsider. She wants to get rid of anything and everything she owns, and to let Cadence heal, her mother wants to send her away for the summer instead of going to the island, but that's not what Cadence wants. She wants to spend time with Johnny, Mirren and Gat.

I wanted that too, but I knew it wasn't going to be the same. You see, I fell in love with how their summers were together, before the accident, even if it was only part of the book. I wanted to read what it would be like as a teenager on a private island enjoying the Atlantic ocean.

But when Cadence gets to the island, it isn't the same.

Lockhart makes writing a novel look easy. She shows how characters feel, and creates teenage voices that are authentic. The dialogue doesn't try too hard. The motivations and actions are believable. Somehow, Lockhart was able to make all the tension on the island palpable, and that tension was what made the book suspenseful.

As I read, something wasn't quite right. I wanted to trust Cadence, Mirren, Johnny and Gat, but at the same time, they would say something or do something that would make it difficult.  I wasn't sure what I was looking for or what I should expect, but the tension kept layering.

That's the reason why I had to keep reading. I had to know exactly what was what, and by the end of the novel, I knew, and I was speechless.