A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This story offers a powerful message about the destructive power of lies and secrets.
Positive Role Models
On the surface, Carrie Sinclair has a life most teens would envy: wealthy parents, the best schools, summers on a private island. But she's addicted to a painkiller, desperately unhappy, sick of always hearing "we need you" from her younger sisters, and often feeling overwhelmed by her parents' expectations. She makes terrible terrible choices that she'll have to live with the rest of her life. But with much grit and determination, she makes moves to turn her life around.
All the main characters are White. One minor character is Asian American. One of the boys is gay. He's out to his parents and many of his friends, but Carrie's parents are "not comfortable with homosexuality." Two girls are bisexual and having a lesbian relationship. A mother remembers a boy she loved but could never marry because he was Jewish and her family wouldn't approve of an interfaith marriage. There's a brief mention that Beechwood Island had first belonged to indigenous people but had been taken away by White settlers.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
A very briefly described sexual encounter between two teens is presented as consensual but the girl remembers she had "codeine and Jim Beam running though my system" so the reality is that she wasn't likely able to legally consent. There's an attempted rape. A murder and the disposal of the body are described in some detail. One character makes up a fairy tale in which a long corridor in a castle is filled with the bones and the bloody bodies of women. A man in the same story cuts off a young woman's hand with his sword.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teen boys joke about one of them "boning" a girl and their "weenies," a girl talks about her father and his "hookers," and another girl is certain her boyfriend has cheated on her and had sex with his ex.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
There's a fair amount of swearing ("f--k," "a--hole," "dick," bastard," "damn").
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Lots and lots and lots of passing mentions of books (several characters are big fans of Diana Wynne Jones' novels), musicians (Madonna, Duran Duran, Pet Ship Boys) movies (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Top Gun, Mary Poppins), and products (Lucky Charms, Doc Martens, the games Clue and Scrabble.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The main character, Carrie, becomes addicted to codeine after surgery on her jaw, and her doctors and even her school nurse have kept her supplied. She steals Halcion from one of the boys. Carrie knows she has a problem and that her drug-taking is affecting her ability to make good choices. Teen characters regularly drink and get drunk, sometimes with adults present. There's a brief mention of teens smoking cigarettes.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Family of Liars is the prequel to E. Lockhart's We Are Liars. The story begins with an adult Caroline "Carrie" Sinclair talking with the ghost of her dead son, Johnny. He wants Carrie to tell him about "the absolute worst thing you ever did, back then." So she tells him what happened the summer of 1987, when a 17-year-old Carrie returned with the extended Sinclair family to their private island off Martha's Vineyard. It was the summer she had her first kiss. The summer she was hooked on a prescription painkiller and the summer a murder was covered up. The summer local police assumed educated girls from a "good family" would always tell the truth. A rape is interrupted and a teen is brutally murdered. A sexual encounter between two teens is presented as consensual but the girl remembers she had "codeine and Jim Beam running though my system." Teen boys joke about their "weenies" and one of them "boning" a girl. Characters regularly use strong language ("f--k," "a--hole," "bastard"), and there's lots of drinking and getting drunk by both teens and adults. In terms of diversity, the main cast is White, one character is gay, and two are bisexual.
Is It Any Good?
This is a compelling story of murder, betrayal, scandal, addiction, and family loyalty set against a background straight out of a Ralph Lauren ad. Family of Liars initially unfolds at a leisurely pace with its wealthy teen characters spending their time playing croquet and tennis, picnicking on the beach, and going sailing. But then the story takes a very dark turn and becomes an unexpected and surprising whodunit. Teens who haven't read We Were Liars should be alerted that the story is filled with spoilers.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.