I think I have written before about how when I was growing up, YA wasn’t really a big deal, and I honestly can’t recall reading books aimed specifically at my age group when I was fifteen. This is why I read lots of Stephen King and the like when I was growing up and probably accounts a lot for my warped world view. As much as I loathe Stephenie Meyer and every book she’s ever published, there’s no denying that Twilight finished what Harry Potter started and put YA through the roof into the stratosphere. You can’t turn around now without there being some new YA phenomenon being hyped up every other day. And since I didn’t have any when I was growing up, I see absolutely no shame in reading it now that I’m hurtling ever faster towards 40.
The latest book to arrive on a tidal wave of hype is this one, E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars. Narrated by 17 year old Cadence Sinclair Eastman, it tells the story of a fantastically rich family and their summers on a private island. She hangs out with two cousins her own age, Jonny and Mirren and an outsider, Gat, who joins them every year. She falls in love with Gat, of course. Then, when Cadence is 15, she has an accident and loses most of her memory of summer fifteen. Two years later, she returns to the private island and memories begin to come back as to exactly what happened.
E. Lockhart is of course Emily Jenkins, and here she schools several authors I’ve read recently in how you write spoilt, privileged and generally awful people and it not be hard work to read them. Cadence and indeed the entire Sinclair family are all pretty vile to each other, squabbling over inheritance following the death of their grandmother. There’s shades of fairy tales and of King Lear in that set up, with three daughters all trying to show their father they love him the most to secure their own future. Lockhart also captures how teens really talk to each other more than, say, Cody Diablo ever has. Cadence, Mirren, Jonny and Gat call themselves The Liars and some of their conversations feel painfully real. This excellent characterisation coupled with an intriguing mystery makes this an engrossing read. I finished it in one sitting.
There’s the issue of the ending though. It’s unfortunate that they’ve made SO MUCH of the twisty turny ending Lockhart has come up with. My housemate read an ARC of it, which even had a helpline number on it so you could discuss the ending with someone. I mean, really. All the publicity says “if anyone asks you how it ends, LIE”. But when you go into a book or a film knowing there’s a twist, you’ll be looking for it. Chances are you’ll find it before it’s revealed as well. I believe it’s called The Shyamalan Paradox. We Were Liars is no different, I figured where it was going before it got there, but it didn’t really diminish the impact of it. It may have been a more effective marketing campaign to talk about the characters, Lockhart’s powerful writing, maybe even double bluffing by amping up the inheritance in fighting angle. Then, the ending would really come along and smack you up side the head.
So anyway, if you love YA books, you totally need to read it. You’ve possibly already done so. But if anyone asks you how it ends, don’t lie. Don’t tell them anything about it. Tell them to just read it themselves.