Monday 8 February 2016

We Were Liars

Finished February 8
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, read by Ariadne Meyers

This teen novel is told from the point of view of Cadence Sinclair Eastman. She is the granddaughter of Harris and Tipper Sinclair, a wealthy couple who owns their own island Beechwood, near Martha's Vineyard. The Sinclairs had three daughters, Carrie, Bess, and Penny. Cadence is the daughter and only child of Penny. Her cousin Mirren is the daughter of Bess, and has younger twin sisters Liberty and Bonnie, and a younger brother Taft. Her cousin Johnny is the son of Carrie and has a younger brother Will. The summer that Cadence, Mirren, and Johnny turn 15 is the summer that everything changes. Cadence's father left them earlier that year, making Penny the last of the three sisters to get divorced. Carrie is the only one in a new relationship, but her boyfriend Ed is not acceptable to the Sinclairs, despite the many years Carrie and him have been together. Ed's nephew Gat has been coming to the island every summer for years as a companion for Johnny. The four teenagers have formed a tight bond over the years. The summer they turn 15 is also the first summer without Tipper, who has died recently, and that has affected the dynamic of the family, causing the sisters to vie for the inheritance. As they try to involve their children in the competition, Cadence, Mirren, Johnny and Gat, the Liars as they term themselves, do what they can to thwart this rivalry, wanting to return to a time of happy families. But something very bad happens as a result of their actions, and Cadence is injured. She has only spotty memories of that summer, severe migraines, and other injuries. The summer she was 16, she was kept away from the island by her parents, and the threat is there for the summer she is 17 as well. When they give in and Cadence returns to Beechwood, she finds that even her cousins will not tell her what happened that summer, and as she goes about the activities they all enjoy, she finds the memories gradually returning. She must discover if she is willing to face the truth about that summer, the guilt, and the loss.
This is a powerful story of the emotional life of teenagers, the immediacy of everything, and their not always good reactions to situations. I recently read this article from the Globe and Mail on teen brain development that really is relevant to this book. There is a great Tumblr page that has been put together on this book showing a map of the island, a family tree, and using images and quotes from the books to give a sense of this book.

Another teen novel that has a character struggling with difficult emotional baggage is The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson.

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