Published by Allen & Unwin on August 1, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Young Adult
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A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends - the Liars - whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense that will leave you reeling.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
It’s been a week and I still can’t get We Were Liars out of my head. The experience that it presented was pretty profound, and it’s rare for a story to affect me in such a powerful way. After all of the hype that the book presented, I was really wary especially after all the vague reviews. Little did I know that the vague reviews were trying to preserve my experience of the book, which funnily enough, is quite vague itself all the way through. Until the shocking ending, that is.
All you need to know about We Were Liars, is that it’s going to be a literary experience that will blow your mind. It’s told through the eyes of an unreliable narrator who has a brain injury, so what she tells us well, could in fact be a lie. It’s all done very well and grips you with suspense all the way through, with the gorgeous lilting words of the novel building up into a shocking ending.
I step away. Because I don’t remember. I hate my fucking hacked-up mind, how sick I am all the time, how damaged I’ve become.
Halfway through reading the book, it manages to touch upon some pretty deep issues that I wouldn’t have expected, including family drama, greed and materialism. I liked this depth in the book, but little did I know what the narrator was doing was taking our mind off Cadence’s mental affliction. The way it’s presented is kind of terrifying, as the others around you reinforce what is wrong with you and it must be scary to have even short term amnesia.
The writing is filled with thick, gorgeous prose that is an artform in itself. It kind of reminds me of The Book Thief, with how it takes a risk with its prose and it really is just a matter of taste. Like Cadence’s memory herself, the writing seems to be quite choppy and jump between moments in her life. I got absorbed into the writing and once I was used to it, I couldn’t tear my eyes away.
There’s these beautiful Once Upon a Time stories that are spread throughout the novel, which are Cadence’s own version of her fairy tales based on what she is learning about her memories and her situation. They were really well done and my favourite parts of the novel, as she talks about her grandpa and his three heiresses as the king and his daughters.
I am not someone to pity, with an unstable mind and weird pain syndromes. I am taking charge of my life. I live according to my principles. I take action and make sacrifices.
I can see why We Were Liars isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. While some of us enjoy reeling in shock and then having the pieces fall into place at the end of the book, it’s kind of vague and hazy throughout, with a loose plot. The writing really is a matter of preference, as sometimes it’s filled with really strong imagery that is meant to be metaphorical. For example, when the narrator talks about bleeding all over she means emotionally, which was hard to get a grip on at the start.
The characters are rich, snobby, privileged and spoilt. Some might say difficult to emphasise with, because of their little island full of family problems based around wealth. I didn’t find any of the characters particularly likable per se, but it was the experience which I really enjoyed.
What about the experience itself? You’ll be absorbed in this gorgeous, poetic prose like the calm on the island before it all blows up and ends with a massive shock. It feels like a massive thrill ride and when the shock comes, it’s one you’d never see coming, yet it’s done so well that you’ll see it all click into place. A well-written mystery is when you pick up on the hints after the fact is revealed, and that’s exactly what We Were Liars did. We Were Liars was a truly mind blowing literary experience.
We Were Liars offers a unique, suspenseful, enthralling thrill ride for the reader. It will reach out and grip you with it’s poetic writing, the gripping suspense, and then make you feel agonising pain when the shocking, tragic truth is revealed. The experience will be so profound, that you’ll have a massive book hangover and you’ll be feeling it for days.
And that is why we read books, so we can have these sorts of experiences. Ones that have the power to evolve from simply being words on a paper, to becoming a story, to stories that will reach out and make us experience intense, strong emotions.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thank you to Allen and Unwin for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!
Giveaway – Win a copy of We Were Liars courtesy of the publisher! (Australians only)
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