A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that National Book Award finalist E. Lockhart's We Were Liars is a mystery involving privileged families at their summer retreat near Martha's Vineyard. Violence lurks beneath the golden life that Cady and her family enjoy on Beechwood Island, and there's an accident that causes death. Arguments, feuds, and revenge are fueled by questions of who will inherit the Sinclair fortune. Sex (kissing, sensual exploration), drinking, drug use (a pain killer), and language here are pretty tame compared with other books for teens. Swearing includes "bulls--t," "s--tty," and "f--k" and its variations.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Cadence Sinclair Eastman spends summers on her family's island near Martha's Vineyard. Yes, her family has an entire island, where each of Harris Sinclair's three daughters has a house. The kids who populate these houses are cousins and cohorts; the oldest posse of the cousins call themselves the Liars. Her parents' dramatic divorce leaves Cady with horrible migraines. She finds comfort at Beechwood Island with her cousins, particularly with a stepcousin named Gat. The Sinclair family begins to fracture, as the aunts vie for their share of the inheritance, and the Liars decide to take matters into their own hands.
Is it any good?
It's the kind of story many kids dream of playing a role in -- golden sunsets on a private island, a tight-knit family, funny and cool kids -- but the characters aren't developed enough to be loved. In fact, readers never get a real sense of why the kids earned the name Liars. The half-sentences and lists provide a poetic tone, lending a smart edge to a mysterious narrative, but the meat of the story, the bond between the Liars themselves, is not entirely clear. Although the drunken family members are supposed to be pitied, they're simply too aloof to provoke compassion. The references to King Lear are obvious to the point of being redundant.
E. Lockhart writes with confidence about upper-crust life on the East Coast ("The Sinclairs are tall, athletic and handsome...Our smiles are wide, our chins square, and our tennis serves aggressive"). And there are moments where the island comes to life in beautiful, nautical colors. Moreover, the plot twist ends up revealing something truly shocking, and it makes reading the novel worth the effort. But whether We Were Liars succeeds in making the reader really care about its characters' fate is another question.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how family expectations can hurt a teen's sense of self. All parents want the best for their kids, but what's going on in We Were Liars that makes those expectations unbearable? How do the kids react?
Cadence sends a number of emails to her cousins that are left unanswered, and she's very hurt by this. How does social media serve to connect us, and how can we be hurt by it?
The little kids on the island are totally involved in video games and their iPads. What are they missing out on? How much time do you spend gaming? What might you be missing out on?
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