“We Were Liars” Review

October, 2023
Tessa Silver

Have you met families that seem to be the definition of picture-perfect? Often these families actually contain and conceal ruinous secrets. “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart tells the thrilling story of one such family, the seemingly stereotypically perfect Sinclairs.

The Sinclairs have always tried to keep to their traditional ways of life. For all of protagonist Cadence Sinclair’s life, she and her cousins have tried to continue the legacy their mothers started and “be a credit to the family,” which includes ignoring anything that brings them sadness, like the loss of their grandmother, and blocking out things that might mar the family’s reputation. This is why the family avoids talking about Cadence’s accident the summer she was fifteen, and even Cadence, who suffers selective memory loss, does not know the details of it. Every summer, the Sinclairs travel to their family-owned island, where they are joined by Cadence’s aunt, her boyfriend Ed, and his nephew Gat. Cadence, her two cousins Johnny and Mirren, and Gat are known as the family “Liars” for reasons unexplained. The summer of her accident, the “Liars” had begun to look more closely at the life they have grown used to, setting off a chain of events that culminated into a major chain of events. Two years later, Cadence returns to the island where the infamous accident occurred, determined to find out what truly happened.

“We Were Liars” draws you in by revealing only snippets of Cadence’s story at a time, making you wonder what might be left out of the narrative. While reading it, I felt eager to discover the things I knew were missing, and the major reveal at the end definitely lives up to the expectations Lockhart builds throughout. Lockhart’s use of metaphors exaggerates Cadence’s feelings by adding a physical element to them, such as when Cadence describes her reaction to mentions of her dead grandmother, saying “my veins opened. My wrists split. I bled down my palms.” Lockhart also inserts classic fairy tales altered to describe events in Cadence’s life, which, as well as her metaphors, give the reader insight into the feelings Cadence isn’t able to express herself. In addition to being a thriller, the novel analyzes the role class and money plays in a person's life, most notably in Cadence and Gat’s relationship, and it was interesting to see how different characters view the Sinclair wealth. Even though the story is told through the perspective of those with money, “We Were Liars” taught me to stay true to myself and appreciate the people around me. Its themes about loss and responsibility impacted my original perceptions about growing up, teaching me that there are some things you cannot change about yourself and others. “We Were Liars” delivers both a compelling thriller and an interesting exploration of class, allowing even readers who are not typical fans of thrillers to connect with its themes and messages.