Monday, February 27, 2017

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Official Book Summary:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
 
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I went back and forth on the review for this. This is one of those novels where I was torn between  mild enjoyment and   extreme dissatisfaction. Granted, I will admit that I had heard so many rave reviews that I excepted something brilliant. I didn’t technically hate this book, or even dislike this book, but I didn’t love it.

So — after some serious thought, I decided I rate this a solid 2.5. It’s not quite a 3 (likable; even likely to reread), but it’s also not a 2 (dislikable; impossible to read again). This is one of those ‘okay’ novels for me.

The narrator, Cadence, is from a wealthy WASP family. She’s part of a group called ‘The Liars’ which includes her, her two cousins Johnny and Mirren and Gat. Out of these four, I only found myself interested in Gat.

Mirren, Johnny, and Cadence are embodiments of long standing  Anglo-Saxon old-money.  In contrast: Gat is poor and Indian.

Gat — while technically accepted into the Liars — is not ‘truly’ accepted. Cadence’s grandfather shows a distaste for him; a mixture of financial and racially charged reasons. Gat is hyper aware of his status. He’s also smart and highly self-aware. Out of all the characters, I found Gat the most interesting.

I honestly would’ve preferred a book from Gat’s perspective rather than Cadence’s. I thought Gat was a wonderful character. He was smart; socially, culturally, and book-wise. Yet instead of focusing on these wonderful attributes, Cadence just discusses his looks and rambles on aimlessly if he 'loves' her. Cadence's love of Gat often reads more like an obsession or infatuation.

Cadence is not a narrator that I can find myself enjoying. She’s highly dramatic, sheltered form reality, and lacks any self-awareness. While she positions herself as someone who is better than her relatives, she is honestly no less privileged; either mentally or financially. She shows disinterest to the ‘help’ and often lacks the ability to comprehend what Gat is saying in reference to  his outsider status.

I think Lockhart was framing Cadence and Gat as Heathcliff and Catherine. Let me preface: Wuthering Heights is my favorite novel. Now with that knowledge, I am not a fan of Catherine. However, may I add, she’s interesting. She’s selfish, self-absorbed, and even spiteful — but she’s captivating. And despite Catherine's perpetual selfishness, she's self-assured and even understandable to the reader.

Cadence is none of these things. For instance: she decides to give away everything in her room. I suppose this is an act of rebellion against her wealth; a figurative way of saying, "I am not ONE of THOSE wealthy people!" Instead it reads as laughable.

Cadence encompasses the worst of Catherine — the obliviousness to others, the obsessiveness, and even the the natural pompousness that status affords. Except she’s not interesting to me. Nor am I relating to her. Catherine can make you relate; make you feel. Heathcliff also possesses this ability, even as a ‘heinous villain’ in the second half of the novel. The same with Heathcliff and Catherine. Even if you think their 'love' is crazed, frenzied and abusively charged (as many readers feel): it's undeniable that Heathcliff and Catherine both feel passionately towards one another.

If Gat and Cadence are supposed to be Catherine and Heathcliff, I dare say that there's zero passion. Even as a girl, Catherine was aware of how different Heathcliff was treated. Where's Cadence self-awareness to this matter in regards to Gat?

Why did I feel such a lack of connection to Cadence? I think is mostly the narration itself and the prose used.

Let me grab a quote from the book, so you can see what I mean by the sheer absurdness of it.

“Then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell. The bullet hole opened wide and my heart rolled out of my rib cage and down into a flower bed. Blood gushed rhythmically from my open wound,
then from my eyes,
my ears,
my mouth.”

You may read this and think, “Oh my goodness! She’s shot! Is she dying? Is she alright?” To answer your question: she’s fine. Cadence is merely describing how she feels. Yes, I am not writing in jest. This is an actual description of her feelings. This is a keen example of how difficult it is to like her.

Purple prose is not something I enjoy. I hated the indentations, half completed sentences and ridiculous usage of figurative speaking.

Not only was Cadence unlikable, she was unreliable. I won’t address the ending which has been discussed a lot. However, I will add that the ending didn’t wrap things up for me. It only made Cadence more unreliable.

So suffice to say, I was not particularly enamored by this. I found Cadence’s cousins to be as likable as she was. Nor was I interested in Harris (the patriarch) who manipulated his family with sociopathic precision. While, I will self-admittedly say, I did find the dynamics of a wealthy WASPY family to be interesting. I have always found a certain type of fascination for the colossal wealthy. The Sinclair family is not only immensely wealthy, but immensely dysfunctional.

Except this novel spent more time on its migraine inducing purple prose instead of actually following a plot-line. Or even focusing on interesting things — such as the family dynamics,  the of classism, Gat, etc.

So in short: I didn’t hate this book. I wouldn’t say I liked this book… but there were parts I wanted more of; particularly Gat! If you’re able to tolerate the odd purple pose and the narrator than I think you may enjoy it — or at least feel like I did that it’s an ‘alright’ book. Most of my distaste for the book comes from Cadence and Lockhart’s purple pose. I also found the ‘plot-twist’ to be less thrilling and more-so… weird and not particularly sensible in regards to the entire book’s plot.

This is one of those books that I won’t ever read again, but don’t feel like I wasted my time reading it. I’m curious what Lockhart will write in the future. Hopefully, if she writes anything that I deem interesting that she’ll retire her usage of purple pose.

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)