Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review: We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

We Were Liars
E. Lockhart
Series: N/A
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Deceptively Enticing
On Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository


I am ridiculously conflicted


On one hand, I wanted to Five Star this post and get you good people on your way to buying this amazing book that kept me up until six in the morning because I could not stand to put it down.

On the other hand, if you head over to Goodreads or Amazon (or any review site) you'll find that this book has entirely polar reviews. Succinct and biting review's such as Mary Chirstensen's and positive, still analytical reviews such as Kristin's. This has seriously clefted my judgement and, because I do not want to feel like I am being deceived, I will do my best to reconcile my love with the problems that others have faced. Let's begin:

Maybe it is the five a.m. stupor talking. Maybe it is the chocolate. It doesn't matter, but for whatever reason, I fell in love with this book almost immediately and could not put it down. 

It begins quite deceptively smoot and then boom. Cady is shot in the chest with a handgun by her father (who is leaving her). Well, not quite. Cady has a knack for telling stories and letting the truth and the lie look awfully the same. And I love her for it. The novel unravels quite unassumingly, letting the secrets of the Sinclair family out. What I love is that it is nearly plot-less, it is deceptively expository, with random titbits about the Sinclair's, like who wants what property or who likes what pie or that someone can't suffer fools but will migraines or the other way around. Yet, despite this, and even the harshest critique's I've found generally agree with me, Lockhart winds up the pages with overflowing suspense. It is so hard to put this book down.

My favourite part seemed to be the pitfall for most others: the style of writing, including inlaid free verse, interjections, the "variations", etc. And this, of course, is purely preferential. If you do not like free verse poetry then you simply do not like free verse poetry and that's the end of it. I will say that at some times it was difficult to understand, especially when the novel began flashbacks. Lockhart seems to have tried too seamless an integration of styles and, despite her skill, she fell slightly short of her mark in Part 3-4. (Lockhart has Cay reflect often, so the flashback discrepancy isn't a huge deal, it can simply be jarring to a casual reader). Otherwise, unlike most, I found that the verse, "variations", etc. fit in extremely well with the rest of the novel, giving color and depth to the narrator who can be so easily denounced by the reader.

And is. Recall the handgun metaphor above. Or, if you've read it, just about any time Cady talked about her splitting migraines. Many complain that that's not how they would react to having a migrane, or complain that the author really should have emphasized that the handgun metaphor was in fact a metaphor. And then, after all of this, they have the audacity to say that Cady is unassuming, vague, indeterminate, and one-dimensional. This is not true. To me, the most obvious dichotomy of the novel is Cady Sinclair, the rich white heiress, and Cady, who experiences pain and loss. Reconciling these Cadies is difficult, and the novel ends up with a Cady who, because of her upbringing, is not fond of expressing herself, at least straightforwardly. She is a Sinclair, through and through, after all. But she has to express herself somehow, and all of the frustration and angst in being denied the right to do so properly is mirrored by her narration: it is covered up by poetry, erased by how she chooses to translate what she feels into words.. This is so important. I've seen so many reviews that denounce Cady as an empty shell for Lockhart's voice, but if you read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, the narrative voice does not remotely resemble the mannerisms that are threaded into Cady's, for example her tendency to tangent into slurries of "curse words". Similarly, the themes in that book are openly discussed and resolved. In this novel, Cady's character, who is a rich white heiress must be eased into this complex political battlefield. She learns much in the way of how to pursue answers through the simple conflicts that the three other main characters give, and though they may at points be predictable and twoish-dimensional, Cady is complex.

And let's not move on, because I find this notion of pouncing on Cady's empty, privileged, impulsive character (haha #firstworldproblems) idiotic considering one of the greatest works of literature -- Romeo and Juliet -- acknowledges this very stupidity, this very insanity that comes with impulsiveness, angst, and the desire to escape familial pressures and pursue love. We were liars does not, obviously, hold the literary weight that Romeo and Juliet holds, but just as Shakespeare does, Lockhart openly admits the impulsiveness and stupidity, the brashness of Cady's choices. The entire point of this book is that Cady, through her experiences and especially through the lens of Gat, learns of the superficial world which she is restrained to. But it takes so much trauma for her to realize this that she admits that she is not ready, that there will be things to know about her, but she will take time to heal.

Could there have been more? Could Cady have grown to confront the socio-political problems that the Liars tried to answer as teenagers? Yes, but that would have moved the plot too far for just social commentary.

This is becoming more of a rant than a review, but in any case, this is an amazing novel that almost gave me a heart attack. Read it, if anything, for the elegance in story-construction and because I'll devise creative ways to get back at you if you don't.

- Marlon

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1 comment:

  1. I agree, the writing is beautiful. I embraced the author's style. I, however, did the 5 star thing, because the story really left me with my jaw on the floor and my heart in my throat. So good.