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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 105/100: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

This is one of those books I kind of resisted reading because there is so much hype surrounding it. But once I did read it, I could not resist giving it any less than four stars, because it truly is well-written, affective, edgy, and surprising.

The opening felt a little jerky to me, and I'm not really sure I ever did understand it exactly. I'd like to go back and read the first few pages to see if I'm remembering thing right, because I was listening to it at the end of an incredibly exhausting day when I may not have had my wits all about me. Still, I caught up quickly enough with the Sinclair characters and all their familial drama.

The mystery and subsequent twist are surely what has generated so much buzz around this title, but that was not what most interested me. I was especially drawn in by the commentary on class and privilege, and the destructive power of greed and resentment -- probably because my own extended family has been lurching through their own ugly power struggles for almost a year now. So it seemed an especially resonant time to read about this family that, although once close, begins to disintegrate as they squabble over who is entitled to certain assets when the family patriarch passes on. All daughters and all divorced, none of them have truly learned what it means to work, and they need their father's legacy to continue living their lives of leisure and comfort. Their teenage children, in the way of teenagers everywhere, see themselves as above such pathetic jockeying of position and keep themselves admirably separate, remaining close to one another even as their parents try to pit them against their cousins, aunts, and grandfather.

These dynamics emerge as Cadence, the narrator, tries to piece together her memories of "summer 15" (she's now 17), which have become lost after an accident around which she cannot remember the details. The accident has left her with frequent migraines, and these descriptions were much too visceral to me; I have to suspect that E. Lockhart has suffered through migraines herself based on the painfully accurate way in which she describes them.  Clues as to what actually happened that summer are dropped throughout Cadence's memories and the way others interact with her, but the novel is also full of red herrings, and I did not guess the details of the accident before they were revealed. I'm still not sure how I feel about the novel's final twist, but I can't deny that this is a masterfully done little novel. It is even a serious contender for the prestigious Printz award, and has already won the Goodreads Reader's Choice in YA. Not too shabby for an author I once associated with writing "fluff."