May Children's bookclub choice: We Were Liars by E Lockhart

(16 Posts)
Andrews55 Mon 07-Jul-14 08:20:36

I finished this book in a day! Not a lot of housework was done, and people had to fend for themselves - I was immersed in the twisted sad lives of the protagonists in the novel. The adults in the story were not particularly nice people, and neither were the children really. Money doesn't bring happiness, does it?
I simply did not see the ending coming, and think that it was an extremely clever ending to the story. I will be reading it again.

Dunlurking Thu 19-Jun-14 15:20:55

I've just discovered the kindle edition to be £1.89 atm. Looking forward to discovering what all the hype this mysterious book is all about!

lottietiger Wed 11-Jun-14 20:10:14

I read this book in a day, partly as you want to know what's coming next as you read it and partly because I knew there wAs a twist at the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it although I probably wouldn't chose to read a book about the obscenely rich. The ending fitted the story line and made sense of all the wealth but I was not surprised by it. Maybe because I was expecting it and had an educated guess. Like others I didn't like the characters although you generally can relate to one or other of them even if it is just young love. A good book well worth reading and passing on.

hareinthemoon Tue 03-Jun-14 17:50:09

I liked this book very much.

I've read somewhere that the difference between adult and YA fiction is that YA fiction dispenses with sub-plots. I've been reading a lot of YA fiction lately and I think that instead of sub-plots it's developing a relationship with intertextuality, particularly with traditional/canonical fiction. This book refers more than once to Wuthering Heights, and for good reason. Several of the main concepts and conceits in Bronte's book are revived here. (Even that name Cady is not so different from Cathy...) How do you interact with, and try to change, injustice if you are privileged, and if your privilege has not allowed you to develop certain characteristics or strengths? What does it do to relationships if you come from vastly different backgrounds? (There's another level to Cady saying "my Gat", I'd suggest.) During the novel the characters discuss Wuthering Heights as a romance or a tragedy - of course the popular version is that of the doomed love between Cathy and Heathcliffe, but that's leaving out the intergenerational nature of the whole book, of how Heathcliffe carries on and the nature of his behavioural change. Mirrored in various (fractured) ways in Liars.

I think this thing of referring to books mirrors the way many of us fall (or fell) in love for the first time. It can't help but be tinged by fantasy; by the books we've read (even fairy stories) and the scenarios we make up in our minds. In YA fiction first love is an insurmountable dividing line where reality becomes mixed in with fantasy, and the divided self starts to become self-aware. So Cady, as all young lovers do, starts out with limited self-awareness and becomes more aware by seeing herself through the lens of her developing love. But this book takes that concept and stretches it to its utmost, with Cady's headaches and ill-health meaning at times she is aware, and then returns to a state of childishness, not being able to deal with the adult world. Her ability to deal as an adult with her life ebbs and flows like the sea surrounding the island.

I usually do get really fed up with displays of privilege but in this case I felt it served a purpose - the privilege itself, like in historical novels, is a cage as well as something that eases life. I saw it both as a criticism of the ignorance of privilege and as a way of showing that money is another form of power, that can be abused like other forms of power. Power and powerlessness is a theme that recurs in a few forms throughout the book.

Like everyone else I knew there was a twist coming and like many others I didn't see it - perhaps because the writer played with a bit of genre-busting. I was not expecting it because it didn't feel like it was "allowed" in this kind of novel. But a brilliant artifice and idea, and I thought well-executed.

I was grateful to be introduced to this writer, and have passed the book on to DD. She's not a bookworm but has discovered (and loves) John Green's novels, and i think she'll enjoy this one very much.

TheHouseElf Fri 30-May-14 18:34:01

Read the book very quickly over the weekend. Had read some of the reviews on-line and wanted to get to the 'twist' and spent a lot of time trying to work out what it might be - but totally got it wrong! There was an 'ah-ha' moment once it was revealed, and some of the scenes then made more sense.

I wasn't aware when I was reading the book that it was aimed at children - I would imagine for somewhere around the 14/15/16 age group - and think this made me judge it harsher than I would have done otherwise.

I found the fairy-tale analogies (the King, and his Princess daughters) that were repeated so much somewhat annoying, as I did the style of some of the writing. I also found it hard to connect or feel any empathy with most of the characters, who lived such a privileged life. When I hear "Martha's Vineyard" I always think of the Kennedy clan, and I had "those" kind on people in my minds eye when imaging the characters. The 3 daughters seemed so weak, and I was glad that the grand-children seemed to be made of stronger stuff.

I could easily see this book being made into a TV film. I'm going to pass it on to my friend's 14-year old daughter for her to have a read of next.

nerysw Thu 29-May-14 11:15:35

I started this and wasn't too keen as the style of writing gave me flashbacks to trying to make head or tail of Virginia Woolf novels. I soon got into it and had great difficulty putting it down. I think dark circles under my eyes because I've read way past bedtime is always the sign of a compulsive read and it passed that test hands down.
I didn't like many of the characters but I was interested in what they did and how they acted. Far better to have an imperfect and realistic world to be immersed in than a dumbed down and contrived scene.
Cady's repetition, over-dramatic descriptions of emotions and isolation in her own teenage angst reminded me of what it's like to be a teenage girl and the quality of the writing is excellent.
The island is a little world of it's own and I was totally immersed in the action, trying to make sense of it all. The almost dream-like world Cady lives in and the fairy tales set a distinct tone which makes the book a great read.
The ending shocked me, it was a plot twist and a half and I normally pride myself in seeing these things coming. Not this time, I actually exclaimed out loud (but not loud enough to wake the other half who was snoring happily next to me).
I'd recommend this and not just for young adults either - it's far too good for them to have it to themselves and would really appeal to an adult audience too.

mjmooseface Mon 26-May-14 18:46:54

I finished reading this book last night - I honestly couldn't stop reading it. And now that I've finished it, I am reading it again with the ending in mind! Just to fully understand what I've just read. I will be back when I've finished reading it the second time!

Lua Sat 24-May-14 22:11:28

I asked this book for DD, but have decided it is not appropriate for her. I think it is for over 15s.

However, I couldn't stop reading it! Literally, and by the end of the day when I reached the end I was so surprised and upset.

The stream of consciousness style of writing was very convincing to me. I think the book is all amount emotions, and i felt like I had a teenager day, falling in love, doubting myself and finally realizing how in an instant it can all be lost.

Will give the children and extra long hug, and make sure DDs read it when she is a bit older.

Flugelpip Tue 20-May-14 16:45:30

Interesting book - I'd heard a lot of buzz about it on Twitter and it got some great cover quotes from writers I like so I was keen to read it. I enjoyed it and read it very, very quickly, not least because I knew there was a surprise near the end and I wanted to know what it was. And when it came, I wasn't bowled over but I thought it fitted very well and didn't cheat the reader. Some of the writing was lovely, and I am a huge fan of anything that involves memories returning.

I definitely had some reservations about it though. (clears throat, unrolls list)
1. I thought the characterisation was very thin. I didn't get a sense of what any of the other liars were really like - just Cady's superficial view of them. In fact, it got quite repetitive in places when things like Gat's nose or keen sense of injustice cropped up again and again and yet I never felt as if I knew him or, dare I say it, liked him. And Mirren, equally, was a blank. There was nothing about the characters that changed from the first summer to the last - they just were more upset or happier.
2. I really strongly disliked almost every adult character and I know it was from Cady's very disillusioned point of view but they were AWFUL people. I just couldn't warm to them and their problems. I'm sure this was a calculated risk on the author's part but I don't think it paid off.
3. I didn't love the fairytales. (Possibly I read too many fairytales to my little ones so they didn't feel all that fresh to me...)
4. It was so short it felt slight to me. There seemed to be a lot of unanswered questions at the end, and not enough depth in the storytelling - I also wanted to hear from Cady's father, or anyone who wasn't a member of the family (because really, the outsiders, including Gat, are basically mute). I'd have liked to see Cady in Europe. I'd have liked some sense of her life off the island and how it changed, and really that end of things felt completely vague and sketchy.
5. There was something a bit twee about the house names and the island and the privilege. I felt I was supposed to be entranced by the glamour of it all, but I just felt they were very much based on the Kennedys (tragedy, wealth, a big luxurious place for the whole family to holiday). That's never been one of my ambitions so it didn't strike a chord with me.

I would absolutely share it with other people and recommend they read it - I really want to know what everyone else thinks of it. Some of the things I didn't like are very personal to me so I don't include them in my list as things that should have been changed - just reasons why it didn't make it into my top YA reads. It was a diverting, entertaining book though.

burwellmum Tue 20-May-14 08:12:55

I asked for this for my DS who is currently doing public exams so there will be a bit of a delay before she reviews it, although from the comments it sounds just up her street.

emmaMBC Mon 19-May-14 18:34:42

Oh my - this one had me gripped from beginning to end. Since completing it I've also been insisting that all my friends read it too.

My full review here

cavylover Mon 19-May-14 17:35:20

I enjoyed this book which I believe would be suitable for older teenagers as well as adults. Although all the characters are flawed - grandfather, his daughters and their children alike, it is still a page turner and the twist kept me guessing until the end. From the beginning there are clues that all is not well in the household. Recommended read.

MissSusanStoHelit Sun 18-May-14 18:27:56

Mine arrived in the post yesterday, I started this morning and couldn't put it down!

It's awfully dark for a childrens book but I LOVED it - the writing was clever, the poetry and fairy stories were brilliant and the ending - well, suffice it to say that I was NOT expecting that...

There were a few bits that grated - I agree with the PP about the misuse of wealth but that was kind of the point in the end - the characters were all flawed even with all that money, and that ultimately leads to tragedy... very clever.

I will be reading this again tonight to find out any clues about the unexpected ending - and I can't wait. Thanks so much MN for the entertainment!

Tryingmybest1 Sun 18-May-14 14:55:32

I bristled when I first started reading ‘We Were Liars’ as the characters seemed so wasteful with their wealth and they didn’t seem to be doing anything useful or meaningful with their lives. They all seemed to accept that their wealth was deserved and indeed their right and still managed to bicker and want even more. However, perhaps I was meant to feel uncomfortable and uneasy with these characters? It annoyed me when they talked about ‘the staff’ too; clear evidence of the class system at work.

It would have been good to have heard a little more from Cady’s father – I’m not sure why. I would have liked him to have a bit more of a voice.

Cady called her mum ‘mummy’ nearly all the way through the book and that grated. As did the name ‘Cuddledown’ for one of the houses.

Still, this is intelligent writing and I enjoyed the different styles within the novel. No, I didn’t see the ending coming so that has to be a plus point doesn’t it! My daughter is reading the book now so let’s see what she thinks. She has started calling me ‘mummy’… Oh dear.

AliceMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-May-14 13:56:36

This giveaway is now closed. We will inform those who have been selected to receive a free copy via email. Once you've read the book, please come back and discuss your thoughts on this thread.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 06-May-14 16:19:12

We Were Liars is an exceptionally brilliant YA novel. We usually like to give you a glimpse into what the book is about but in this case we're not. Instead we urge you to read the book spoiler-free and pass on to your teens/YA lovers Apply for one of 50 free copies here.

We think both We Were Liars and The Year of the Rat are strong contenders for best YA novels of the year and would love to hear your thoughts. If you'd like to read and review (or pass on to a teen to read and review) join the discussion thread either on this thread or by posting up a review, apply for a free copy here

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