‘We were liars’ by Emily Lockhart
What I like the most is that Emily Lockhart didn’t write this novel to entertain, but because she needed to tell you about the relationship between a frustrated and desperate divorced mother and her daughter and how unhealthy dynamics in a family marks any childhood – no matter how strong you are. Truely an unforgettable story, like John Green writes on the cover – and full of surprises
‘We were liars’
May 13th 2014
Publisher, this copy:
Hot Key Books / Bonnier
Cadence, Mirren and Johnny are cousins and teenagers, almost the same age. Every summer they spend their holidays on their Granddad’s – Harris Sinclair’s – island ‘Beechwood’ in Massachusetts, USA.
The three cousins also have three different mothers, Penny, Bess and Carrie, and each mother has got a house on ‘Beechwood’ paid by their dad, also Harris Sinclair.
At first, the Island map and the Family tree on the first pages of the book, looks complicated. But it really isn’t. Cadence is our protagonist. Gat is her boyfriend. And the focal point is on them and Cadence’ two cousins Mirren and Johnny.
They try living their own lives and enjoying the summer, swimming, kayaking, reading, drinking, watching movies, while their desperate mothers – the aunts – fight over the best houses on ‘Beechwood’ and Harris Sinclair’s trust fund.
It looks like a traditional, American rich family drama, just from a teenage focal point. But one day things changes dramatically on ‘Beechwood’.
Excerpt from ‘We were liars’
Granddad walked in on us. Gat sprang up. Stepped awkwardly on the color-sorted books that had spilled across the floor.
“I am interrupting,” Granddad said.
“Yes, I most certainly am.”
“Sorry about the dust,” I said. Awkward.
“Penny thought there might be something I’d like to read.”
Granddad pulled an old wicker chair to the center of the room and sat down, bending over the books.
Gat remained standing. He had to bend his head beneath the attic’s slanted roof.
“Watch yourself, young man,” said Granddad, sharp and sudden.
“Your head. You could get hurt.”
“You’re right,” said Gat. “you’re right, I could get hurt.”
“So watch yourself,” Granddad repeated.
Gat turned and went down the stairs without another word.
3 things I really liked about ‘We were liars’
Cadence many conflicting thoughts
It’s tough being a teenage girl, in particular if you have a dominating mother. It creates a lot of conflicting thoughts in Candence’s mind navigating through her mothers manipulations. It was an eye-opener seeing how messed up parents pass on behavioural problems to their children leaving them no chance of escape.
Cousins stick together
In a family drama where the grown ups basically act like children (like most adults do in the real world), it’s comforting seeing how the three cousins stick together. It’s not just a detail, it’s their strong bonds and loyalty that made me identify with Cadence and kept me reading.
Soon you realise that there is a pretty big gap in Cadence’s memory. That’s when things get really exciting.
1 thing that could be better
Introducing characters too quickly
When I read a novel, I need to be connected to the protagonist in a calm way, where I get time to know him or her better over the first chapters. In ‘We were liars’ all the character – and their pets – were introduced in the first few pages, after we also were presented to a family tree and a map of the island. It almost made me stop reading, because I couldn’t relate to or place 19 characters and pets in my mind only by their names and location.
Conclusion: Totally different than expected
I thought ‘We were liars’ were another superficial teenage summer fling, and before reading I couldn’t understand why John Green would call that ‘unforgettable’ in an excerpt on the cover. But the story really is unforgettable and very unique. It’s primarily contemporary, but because of great surprises it could also be categorized as mystery.
It’s the kind of contemporary that gives you life lessons.