We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

We Were Liars might be the most hyped-up Young Adult book released this year. E. Lockhart has been praised by John Green and Scott Westerfeld for her haunting novel about the Sinclair family and Beechwood Island.

Usually when I write a review, I don’t like to include the opinions of other authors or reviewers. Obviously the book cover is going to boast how amazing the book is - it’s called marketing. However, We Were Liars is actually 10 times better than the review quotes claim it to be. Want to know why?

It starts of with the writing, which is so beautiful. I know beautiful is a meaningless and overrated word in reviews, but I’ll prove it. Take the opening sentences of the book:

Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.

No one is a criminal.

No one is an addict.

No one is a failure.

The Sinclairs are athletic, tall, and handsome. We are old-money Democrats. Our smiles are wide, our chins square, and our tennis serves aggressive.

Every creative writing class I took, focussed at least 5 lessons on characterisation and the narrative voice - this opening paragraph shows how to set a scene and give a sense of the narrator and her family.

This narrator is called Cadence and she’s the oldest grandchild in the Sinclair family. Each summer, the whole family (grandparents, three beautiful daughters and their children) meet on a private island. In Cadence’s “Summer 15” something goes horribly wrong and she wakes up at a hospital on the mainland without her memory. What happened in summer 15?

The journey of Cadence is the journey of retrieving her memory and learning that not everything is what it seems. As a reader, you feel bad for Cadence who is slowly learning that the opening paragraph of the book is the furthest thing from the truth. She is a teenager, just 17 when she tries to uncover the truth, who has to learn some horrible truths about her family and herself. How can anyone cope with it?

Cadence deals with it in a very mature and raw way. She didn’t read like a teenager to me, she analysed things and thinks everything through before she acts. I guess if you really want a teenage-y narrator, this is a negative, but I adored a more mature narrator. 

The plot takes twists and turns that completely threw me off every single time. You want to keep reading. You want to find out what happened in Summer 15 almost more than Cadence was to know.

Another bonus is the length of the book - 224 pages means that you don’t have to read for hours to find out what happens. There is definitely suspense and things don’t start to make sense until page 180, but the story is constantly moving and progressing.

We all know the pressures and expectations of belonging in your family, but if your family turns out to be complete strangers, what can you do?

Reading classic novels and brain activity

Research has shown that people who read a classic novel in a “focused, literary” way use more brain activity than when the same people read a classic in a casual, relaxing way.


The book used to prove this was Mansfield Park by Jane Austen and the “people” in the experiment were PhD students.

Are the results shocking? Not really - I’m pretty sure that if you are focused on something, you always use more brain activity. But the interesting fact of the study is that, when focusing on a text, a person uses several different brain functions - more than are usually used when you focus on a task.

Do I understand the details of this? No, I’m no neuroscientist. 

However, it does make me wonder what goes on in my brain while I read a classic. I don’t have a PhD in literature, but I have followed several literature classes at college, so I have a basic knowledge of the components of literature. But, as I said before, I struggle with fully delving into classic novels - I feel like I never enter the “casual, relaxing” reading and am constantly forced to focus and analyse.

I assume that using more brain activity means that you get tired from reading classics easily. So I’m putting it to the test. In the last week, I finished We Were Liars and How To Be A Heroine. I finished We Were Liars in about 1 day (amazing book, I can’t wait to write the review on this one!) and How To Be A Heroine in 4 days (it took me a bit to get into the book). However, there was never any limit on how much of the book I could read every day.


So anyone up for testing the reading classics/getting tired combination? I’m started Jane Eyre today, a classic that I always wanted to read, but was never motivated to read. It sounds like it should be a book I love, so I’m excited. How long will it take me to finish the book?

And on a completely unrelated topic, for those asking about the newsletter, this week there will be no newsletter. I love my things to be perfect and this newsletter just isn’t perfect yet. However, this just means that you have more time to pick up your classic and do this experiment with me: Does it take you longer to read classics?