This is a slightly different type of review for this week’s post, styled as a Q&A. My best friend and I had both read this book, and obviously, if you have read We Were Liars then you will understand, we had very mixed feelings about this novel! I thought it would be a good idea to have a more structured discussion, like a Q&A session, about the events in the book and how we felt about them, and see how far you all agree or disagree with what we thought
Please do not read any further if you have not read We Were Liars! This post will contains spoilers!
About The Book
‘We Were Liars’ by E. Lockhart
We are the Liars.
We are beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury.
We are cracked and broken.
A story of love and romance.
A tale of tragedy.
Which are lies?
Which is truth?
Q&A Discussion Review
How would you describe the genre of this book?
Silence. When you start to really think about it, this question is a toughie. When we first picked it up, we thought YA and mystery, but there is so much more too it than we initially thought. It could potentially be classed as a thriller novel, as it has the shorter chapters, but it’s more of a psychological read, because it doesn’t have the drive that comes with a thriller, like a whodunnit vibe. A young adult psychological mystery was our final verdict. New genre on Goodreads, perhaps?
Where is this book set, both physically and mentally?
What is meant by this question is of course where it is actually set physically, but also where we are in Cadence’s mindset, as we are reading from her point of view. How is she feeling at different points in the book? So we know it’s set on the island and in various houses on the island, as a main physical setting. It’s tough to tell the first time you read the book to tell where we are with Cadence mentally, but it’s important to think about this because of the nature of the storyline. In the beginning, it all feels very real, but after the accident, and as the storyline unravels, we start to question Cadence’s ability to tell the story, and the mental setting becomes questionable, not unlike the unreliable narrator technique. Also, we know Cadence’s character is under a lot of pressure with everything that has happened in her family with her dad leaving, and also her thinking about going to college, and we thought about whether this possibly hindered her ability to come to the final realisation faster.
What do you think of the series of events that happened throughout the book?
So at the start of the book, we see Cadence’s dad leave her and her mum, so why is this relevant? We think it’s symbolic of the beginning of so many bad things happening to her, and also showing that she has lost the strength of the support system she had with two parents. She has her accident, she has to stay away from the Liars for a few summers, and her relationships falter with a lot of people. Thinking about Cadence’s relationship with Gat, it’s tough to say why it was included in the storyline. It was an addition to carry the story, but would anything have been different if the relationship was taken away, and they were just friends? It never seemed to develop into anything.
Where the events predictable?
Did we know anything going into this book? No! It is so much better to go into this knowing as little as possible, which of course makes all events unpredictable. After she has her accident, you start to see some relevance to the story, but the ending was such a shock. Everything was condensed into such a small book, you need to read it again and pick it apart to find the clues hidden within that you may not have seen the first time round.
Did you find the ending climactic?
In most mystery and thriller novels, the beginning sets the scene, the middle holds the investigation and the ends tells us who the culprit is, along with an epilogue or final chapter which wraps everything up. With We Were Liars, everything seems to merge, and because there wasn’t really any defining investigation to follow the story- it all seems quite mundane in a way- there is even more of a shock when everything comes to light. After finding out everything that happened, their lives seem to go back to normal in the last few pages, which is really strange, because what Cadence has learnt and come to terms with is far from normal. There is also a very strong sense of forgiveness in the end, considering the events. When everyone on the island finds out that Cadence knows, they seem very quick to forgive, almost like they have had the time while she has been recovering to learn to forgive what her and Liars did.
Did you have any theories about what might have happened?
I had one theory, because I always like to try and guess. My theory was maybe someone was waiting for Cadence to try and drown her, because she was the eldest grandchild and heir to the estate. I always thought it had something to do with the water, and I never imagined that the major event in the book wouldn’t be linked. There was also suspicion when Mirren was ill, and questions and theories surrounding that, which brings us to our next question…
Hints towards the ending? Did you spot them or did they contribute towards your theories?
Mirren being ill is now an obvious hint towards the final verdict of the storyline, but nothing ever had a lot of emphasis on it to draw your attention, which was probably done on purpose, to detract from that fact that it may have been a clue. The same thing with the Liars not replying to Cadence’s emails, and Mirren saying she never received her gift. The rebuild of the house was a massive hint, I can’t believe I didn’t pick up on it!
What was your reaction to the plot twist?
It was the most dramatic part of the book. There wasn’t much of a build up which is what made it more effective and in-your-face woah!
Did you find the plot quite fast paced, or was it slow at times?
A mix of both. There were some parts that dragged on a lot, like Gat and Cadence spending time together. I was initially planning to read this in one day, but it took me almost a week! The chapters made it feel slightly faster paced because they were so short, but there were some parts that were quite repetitive and therefore slowed the pace a bit. This could have been done to make you pay attention to the important parts, by using repetition within scenes, even though they seemed mundane. It has been very cleverly written.
Did the author tie up all the loose ends that were introduced throughout the story?
Pretty much, we can’t think of anything within the plot that we’re still questioning.
Thoughts on the sentence and paragraph structure?
Why did the author split longer sentences into different lines? My idea was it could mirror the Liars on the different levels of the house at the end, by having different parts of the same sentence on a separate line. It could also hint towards the very broken family that you find out the Sinclairs are. Shorter sentences seemed to be fact, the piece of information that Cadence knows, whereas the longer sentences are more Cadence trying to figure out what has happened, which is why it seems more bulked out in the middle, and the broken sentences appear more at the beginning and end of the book.
Thoughts on the language and style of language used?
We’re thinking here about the very dramatic use of language for less dramatic circumstances. For example ‘He took out a hand gun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell.’ Language like this appears throughout the book and it is extremely metaphorical, because it isn’t actually happening. But we feel like nothing in this book is actually happening in a sense; therefore the language could mirror this in some way. Also, Cadence uses very specific and poignant language to describe the Liars in the beginning, such as describing Gat as ‘ambition and strong coffee’. We thought this could be written so specifically because the Liars do end up being characters in her head, and she therefore knows them as well as an author knows her characters, like she has built their personalities.
Who was your favourite character, and why?
All characters had a part to play, but none seemed significantly important at the same time. You can sympathise with Cadence because it is written from her point of view, but if I had to choose, I would choose Mirren, because she seemed the most chilled, and I know how important it is for a girl to have another girl to bond with. Gat didn’t seem real enough, and his relationship with Raquel was a strange addition, possibly to distract Cadence from him, and stop her falling for him too much. If she had fallen too hard, she may have figured things out sooner.
What did you think of the different characters in the story? (the Aunties? the Littles? Grandad?)
The aunties didn’t have a massive role to play until the end when they had the fight. Their characters developed into very selfish ones, and we found them quite distracting from the main plot, but again, this could have been another technique that Lockhart used to keep the reader from guessing the ending too quickly. There was one part regarding the Littles that stood out to me, which was when they had just finished a family dinner and Cadence asks the Littles to tell her about what happened, which is when she finds out they have been forbidden to say anything to her about the ‘accident’. I feel like people that young wouldn’t be able to understand, or even keep their mouths shut about what happened, so the aunties must have quite a strong influence over them. Grandad was a very mixed character, because at some points he could be the adorable, loving Grandad, and the next he could snap and be quite aggressive when people were only trying to help him.
Did the characters feel real to you?
The story was a lot more focused on the progression of events, rather than the character development. However, the situation the family was in was a very realistic situation.The Liars are more well developed, so they were the most real. The characters, while they did’t have a lot of development, they did have the background and family setup that made it feel more real. They didn’t have a perfect family.
What was your favourite part of the book, and why?
Probably finding out what happened, and Cadence actually having her accident. So kickstarting and rounding off the storyline were the favourite parts, because they were important parts in the plot. Her accident is a trigger for the reader to explore the story further.
What was your least favourite part of the book, and why?
THE DOGS DYING! They didn’t deserve it! Also the slower parts of the storyline that dragged on a bit.
Were certain types of scene written particularly well?
There was nothing that jumped out in particular, but at the same time, it was all, to some extent, written really well, for the author to be able to hide such a big surprise at the end through seemingly ordinary writing about realistic family disputes.
Did the book make you feel any particular emotions? Did you cry at any point?
The writing wasn’t necessarily emotional enough to cry (although tears may have been shed when the dogs die, just saying!) There was some anger when the aunties were arguing, or when Grandad lashed out when people were trying to help, but no particular rush of emotion.
Did the story grip you and keep you turning the pages?
Yes! But also, because of the way it was written, with no cliffhangers at the end of chapters, it seemed like a normal story. It wasn’t being told to create a climax at all because everything in the end is so sudden. This happened more towards the beginning transitioning to the middle.
Did you learn something? Morally or academically?
Don’t get four people to start a fire on different floors of a building!
Seriously though, we learnt that sometimes, it isn’t always about having material possessions, but building memories and moments with the people you love most in your life. This was most prominent when Cadence was getting rid of her things, and you can see her survive without them. You can have a minimalist lifestyle and still be happy.
The type of reader you’d recommend the book to?
We would recommend We Were Liars to readers around the 20 year old age range, similar to ourselves, and of course anyone older who appreciates this genre of literature, but not suitable for young readers. Anyone who enjoys a quick read.
Are there any books or series you would compare it to?
There is nothing we can think to compare it too, it is such a unique story. It can loosely be compared to The Fault In Our Stars just for the plot twist and the shock of thinking one thing, and the opposite happening.
My Rating: 4 Muffins out of 5
Where To Buy
If you like the sound of the book, here is where you can buy it (including, but not limited to):
The Book Depository
Cover photo and description taken from Goodreads (view book profile here)