We Were Liars is not the sort of book I normally read. But with so much hype, and considering there was a mysterious aspect to it I really did not want to get spoiled on by waiting too long to read it, I requested it from the library’s e-book system and read it.
First, I’ll have the non-spoilery review…
OK, you’ve heard about the hype, the mystery, the shocking ending. Now that I’ve read the book I can say that I was sucked into the mysterious nature of the story (though not from the very get-go, which I’ll explain soon), and though I had a slight suspicion for at least part of the ending, I did feel pretty shocked afterwards.
Before I move on to the spoilers, I wanted to delve into the narrative structure of the novel. The narrative for most people, will be love or hate. I did fall in the middle with it, but mostly because I wasn’t crazy about it at first, then it grew on me, then I would stop reading for a little while and have to get back into it when I started reading again, etc. But I did find it was pretty powerful at moments. There really isn’t a typical three act plot structure, the narrator tells-tells-tells and doesn’t really show, there’s purple prose and simple prose and weird sentence breaks and fairy tales… and it can work… if you want it to, and if you’re OK with something slightly different from the norm. I won’t say it’s a slow beginning, because it’s not, but it may or may not grab you from the very start, just depending on how much you gravitate towards that kind of narrative.
Be normal now, she said. Right now, she said.
Because you are. Because you can be.
There are a lot of metaphors, which I found pretty effective once I got past the first really shocking one that I took literally and was about to freak out. But I loved when she used metaphors to describe the other Liars.
He is contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee.
If you like this sort of narrative or are willing to try it out, I think you and We Were Liars will get along just fine.
I was slightly disappointed with the ending, and I don’t even think I realized it until I had been finished for a couple of hours and continued to think it over. I had several ideas of what could have happened running through my mind, including that the Liars minus Cadence were dead, but I couldn’t reconcile how it would all work together. I even went so far to think of the Liars having been cloned as a more likely possibility than them being ghosts. I think ghosts crossed my mind for the briefest second, but I thought no way would the author do that, because it’s silly. Yet, there it was. And so many people loved the ending. And I kind of had an emotional reaction to it myself. I wasn’t like crying or flailing or yelling, “Five stars!” because none of that happened, but it did leave me with a sense of shock, and that was what I wanted after all it had been hyped up to be.
I didn’t want it to be paranormal. I’m really not a fan of paranormal. The way some people find stories about aliens silly is how I feel about stories about ghosts. (And just to be clear, when I say stories, I mean obviously fiction stories, not real people relaying what they believed happened to them.)
I have problems with this ending logically. Did everyone else know about the ghosts and interact with them? I tried looking back (which is a little hard with an e-book) and it does seem Cadence was the only one who interacted with the Liars’ ghosts. Did the adults know of their presence though? If not, did they not wonder why Cadence wasn’t asking questions about where they were? What did they think she was doing all that time? And then if they did know, how did they not totally flip?! Were they literally never going to tell Cadence what happened and make her figure it out on her own? What if it took her years?
I appreciated the recurring idea of “being normal” and not talking about bad things and maintaining the air of Sinclairs, but I was disappointed I never got to see the adults (or the littles!) come full circle and start talking about things. Or even Cadence really; she only shares her revelations with the reader. If this was supposed to be a flat or negative character arc then I guess I would have liked for the ending to make it more obvious that she and her family had made the decision to ignore it all. Like Cadence is about to say something about it and her mom stops her and tells her to be normal. The last line of the book, “I will endure,” is a little vague and can really mean anything in terms of how she’s choosing to cope with the tragedy.
And then I have just a random thought that doesn’t have anything to do with my ultimate rating of the book… I noticed that there were two blue things that are usually white, and both are pointed out as being unusual: the blue Italian toilet and the blue hospital sheets. Did anybody find any meaning to this? I thought it was more than coincidental but could never figure out a significance.
Anyhow, my immediate, emotional reaction rating was 4 stars. The logic side of my brain is saying 3 stars would make more sense. So I think I have decided to compromise at 3.5 stars.
Alright, please share your thoughts on We Were Liars if you’ve read it! I want to know what you thought of the ending, if it worked for you, and why or why not.