We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart

We Were LiarsOkay, last week was a week of dud books for me. But this week? SO MUCH BETTER. This book, guys.

Really, I don’t want to tell you anything, because I think the best way to approach this book is to pretend you’ve never heard of it except it magically showed up in your hands and hey, might as well read it because there’s no arguing with magic. But also I want to tell you everything because I loved this book, so if you have any wish of reading We Were Liars in an unbiased fashion (well, mostly), just bookmark this page and come back to it when you’re done. The internet’s not going anywhere.

Okay, done? Excellent. Let’s move along.

So first of all, it is one of those books where you find out right up front that Something Terrible has happened, but you don’t know what, and in this case our narrator doesn’t know what, either, because she got herself a case of amnesia after the Something Terrible. Good job, narrator. But she knows something’s super amiss, because when she goes out to her family’s island for the summer all of her cousins are being cagey and not talking about what happened or about her in general except when she’s not around.

“Her family’s what?” you say? Yeah, so, second of all, this is one of those books about stupidly wealthy people who own islands, so. Our narrator, Cady, is one of many grandchildren of the stupidly wealthy grandfather who bought an island and built a house for himself and also for each of his children. Which is awesome, on the face of it, because private island and special island house, and more importantly entire summers spent on a private island in a special island house. I got to go to camp for a week in the summer. I did not get a private island.

But of course this is not the happiest island. Since Cady doesn’t remember the Something Terrible she remembers other summers on the island for us instead, summers called “Summer Ten” and “Summer Fourteen” because kids are pretentious like that. When Cady and her cousins are young, these summers are as awesome as I think they should be, but as the kids grow up into teenagers they realize that their families aren’t necessarily spending entire summers on a private island because they want to, and that their parents are starting to use the kids as pawns in the chess game of staying on the right side of the grandfather’s whims. Yaaaay.

So the book turns into this fairly interesting look at wealth and class and how kids learn about and deal with money and family politics, and you’re like, wow, I guess maybe I’ll pass on that private island thing after all, and then things start getting weird and you’re like OH RIGHT the Something Terrible is coming, oh crap. It becomes pretty obvious what the Something Terrible is going to be early on, which I think only makes it worse as the story gets closer and closer to it and you’re like (well, I was like), hey, stop, this is going to go poorly, why can’t you see that this is not going to end well aaaaaaaah.

I’ll admit the book has some problems, largely in the fact that it’s a token non-rich, non-white character who is more or less the catalyst for this whole unfortunate series of events, and that the Something Terrible is more than a little melodramatic.

But I loved it anyway, obviously. Between this and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, I am pretty firmly Team E. Lockhart and I am happy that she’s got some backlist I can read in the downtime before her next sure-to-be-fantastic book comes out. To the library!

Recommendation: For those who like reading about Rich White People Problems and those with healthy hearts.

Rating: 9/10

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart (22 September — 23 September)

Aaah I love this book!

That’s what I wrote as a placeholder for this entry before I started it, but it’s so true. This is one of those books that is thoroughly entertaining but sneakily makes you think about societal status quos and your own personal set of norms and it’s all sociological and anthropological and fun. Well, if you’re into that sort of thing, anyway.

Plot: Frankie Landau-Banks is an average teenager, starting her sophomore year at her not-so-average boarding school in Massachusetts. Things are going really well — she’s taking fun classes, she’s rooming with a good friend, and the boy she’s been crushing on forever (well, teenage forever) totally asked her out! Yay! But she soon realizes that Matthew and his gang aren’t really as into her as she is into them. Also they are part of an all-male secret society that Frankie’s father was in, and Frankie’s not too thrilled about that. She decides to start thwarting some of those aforementioned status quos, and it’s pretty awesome.

The book is full of sociological- and psychological-type talk about feminism and classism and ageism and fitting into the society inherent in a New England boarding school. Frankie’s not exactly a sympathetic character; she plays the same games that Matthew does and isn’t the nicest person. But you can definitely understand why she does what she does, and I at least was totally rooting for her and wishing I had the ovaries (because balls is a masculine construction, as Frankie’s sister points out) to pull off some of the pranks she does.

Oh, and there’s some bonus Wodehouse love, and you can’t beat that.

Rating: 10/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2008)

See also:
The Bluestocking Society
Persnickety Snark
Book Nut
Library Queue

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.