Initial reaction: I think the experience of reading this for what occurs is very different from actually knowing what happens in a play by play, but I’m going to sit on my hands a while before I write the full review because I could talk a lot about what happened in this book, the way it was presented, and how in some ways it worked well for the style it took on versus turns where it didn’t.
I actually didn’t mind the writing style, and I liked the fairy tale interludes. Do I think it could’ve been stronger in presentation? Definitely. Do I think it could’ve handled its thematics with a little more distinction? Absolutely.
But I’m probably going to take the stance of saying that it did well for what it provided, and I ended up liking the story more than I thought I would, though I have a feeling this is going to be one of those titles that’s hit or miss. I’m going to say it was a hit for me, but with caveats.
I’ve had a long time to think about my reactions to “We Were Liars”, but even as I sit at present to type a review, I’m still struggling to put words to it, because this is definitely a title that’s hit or miss. I wasn’t surprised at looking at some of the reactions from friends and fellow readers because it’s either you love it, hate it, or fall somewhere between. And you’re better off not knowing much of anything about “We Were Liars” going into it for the full effect of the narrative.
I was in the middle for my reactions to it, leaning towards like. I loved E. Lockhart’s “Ruby Oliver” series and the detailed expansion of the series character’s thoughts, experiences, and just the whole nine yards with all of those books. So when I heard Lockhart came out with this, I started happy dancing, doing mental backflips and cartwheels, and got grabby hands wanting to read this one. But I’ll admit it was a bit of a transition going from Ruby Oliver’s series to this book. Ruby is awesome – she’s likable, she’s funny, she’s dimensional, animated, and just pulled me into her respective experiences without any trouble.
On the other hand, it was much more difficult to relate to Cady and her group of friends in this book. Considering this is more focused on developing a mystery at an arm’s length distance, and features an unreliable narrator who may bit hit or miss for her role in this narrative, it’s admittedly much harder to dive into this book apart from the measure that it’s a quick read.
Stepping into “We Were Liars” was different territory for the sparse writing style. At times it’s lyrical with a keen eye to setting and sensory details, and others it leaves you wanting more in terms of asking “For goodness sake, what happened here?” It’s not straightforward, but more convoluted for the nature of the tale. I got that this was supposed to be centered on a young woman who had lost her memories and suffered some kind of trauma during a summer on a well-to-do private island. I knew that this was going to center around some rich kids who were purportedly friends and something happened that changed everything, and it was up to Cady, the MC, to figure it all out based on context clues of what people gave her. But I wasn’t really prepared for the kind of twist this book took for events and revelations.
I’m not going to write anything too spoilery for events because this is the kind of narrative that I think people can take the value for themselves, but for me – I liked the atmospheric writing, I liked the fairy tale leanings, I liked that it kept me guessing right up to the point of the reveal. I really didn’t care that much for the characters themselves, because I couldn’t relate to their struggles or pains. They seemed more petty to me than anything else, but I followed the story without judging that too much. It didn’t affect my enjoyment of what the narrative provided because I was invested in the overarching mystery of it all, and the attention to place. I also realized, early on, that I was dealing with a character who was an unreliable narrator (and those characters in themselves can be hit or miss for reaction). There were times through the narrative and towards the end where the reveal was a little rushed and awkward for translation, and that was what kept this from being a higher rated read for me.
On the whole though, I appreciated “We Were Liars” for what it offered. It was the kind of twisty, keep you guessing read that I tend to like, but the translation wasn’t always on point. I do think it could’ve been smoother and a bit more developed, but I appreciated the experience.
Overall score: 3/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.