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.