‘We Were Liars’: A Commentary on the Heart-Wrenching YA Thriller

Lauren Stewart, Contributing Writer

On an unremarkable Sunday afternoon, my high school friends and I were texting back and forth about reading a book together. After lengthy deliberation and many propositions, we came across “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart, a book that won our hearts by its description in a Tik-Tok. I had preconceived notions about this book that, as the plot played out, were changed. Sometimes, you can read the blurb and feel that it almost reveals too much about a book, but with “We Were Liars,” there was a lot of depth that I happily discovered while reading. 

The story generally revolves around the Sinclair family, a lily-white New England family of “old-money Democrats.” From the start, the seemingly perfect household with a scandalous backstory of debt and addiction trope begins. The members of the family spend their summers on Beechwood Island, only further emphasizing the overwhelming wealth their family holds. 

The focal point of the story is Cadence, a Sinclair grandchild and a member of “The Four Liars.” She and her cousins have the island at their disposal, taking in all that their privileged, sheltered and undemanding lives provide them. Her and Gat, the nephew of Cadence’s aunt’s boyfriend, develop a forbidden, almost Romeo and Juliet-like connection. Coming from a very different background – one of a different race and less abundance – Gat still is able to become very close with the other kids. He also becomes a member of “The Four Liars.” These four are written as your typical group of teenagers who develop a deep connection, individually discovering themselves while seeking acceptance and approval from those around them. 

As someone who over-romanticizes anything and everything, I was a sucker for their love story and shocking compatibility. Not only is their connection very sweet and pure, but Gat is also able to create a change in Cadence’s perspective on the way she has been living her life. 

Just when everything in her life seems to be smooth sailing, Cadence has a mysterious and horrible accident that alters the course of her life as well as her relationship with Gat and family members. After finally being able to return to the island, she feels closer to discovering the truth behind the accident. During the final moments of the book, I felt a little frustrated and disappointed with the outcome, while also bewildered by the clever continuation of the sense of mystery and deception that it brought me.

The book is full of many beautiful passages, metaphors and imagery that make it a gripping and compelling read. The writing is incredibly unique and flowery, but I can see it not being everyone’s cup of tea. The story brings up many questions of morality including inheritance, manipulation and materialism, while also blending in points of humor and romance. Throughout the read, long kept secrets and, unsurprisingly, lies that spread throughout the family were uncovered. 

While the book was generally satisfying, at times the plot could be a little implausible. Some of the consequences the character suffered did not have a satisfying resolution. Furthermore, I had a bit of an issue with the unreliability of the narrator, Cadence, as well as the dramatic twist that came at the end. Without providing too much context and spoiling it, the twist unfortunately reminded me of the all too overused and cliché “and then I woke up and realized it was all a dream” ending. My final critique is that the novel tried to compress too many morals into a story that was more for dramatics and intrigue. 

Overall, the story was beautiful yet tragic and a thriller that my friends and I became addicted to reading. If you’re looking for a read that will make you laugh but mainly cry over the likable characters you become attached to, read ‘We Were Liars’

My final rating of this book: 4/5 stars.