Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Equivocation

So, the teen book buzz all summer was for E. Lockhart's We Were Liars. Fittingly, I finally got my hold just as summer came to an end, perhaps a perfect time for this book about the last summer of one's childhood.

If you haven't read this book, maybe you know that it contains a revelation that alters everything you have read before, so just the briefest of synopses is possible. Cadence Sinclair Eastman is back on her family's private island off the coast of Massachusetts for what she calls Summer 17. Beechwood Island is occupied by Cady's grandparents (the Sinclairs), their three daughters, and their grandchildren. Cady and her two cousins are the oldest and -- along with the nephew of her step uncle, the Indian (subcontinent)-American, Gat -- are the Liars.

The Liars do what teenagers do during the summer. The Liars are smart and understand their privilege, but they still enjoy it. They see the tensions that have bubbled up between their recently bereaved grandfather and his daughters. They realize that Gat is not quite "one of us," but utterly accept him. He and Cady fall in love over Summer 15.

But something is different about Summer 17. Soon we learn that Cady had a mysterious, debilitating accident during Summer 15 and was unhappily traveling in Europe with her divorced father in Summer 16. She spends her time emailing the other Liars, but they don't reply. She is thrilled to be able to reconnect with the Liars and has very high expectations for this Summer.

I'll just say that while what was revealed was something of a surprise to me (others have said they saw it coming a mile off), however as it got closer it became obvious so that the actual twist was kind of dud. If I'd really enjoyed this book, I might have re-read just to catch the clues (it's not very long), but frankly I didn't care much about this young woman and her friends. It's not that her problems are those of the 1%, but that I couldn't get beyond her mooniness and self-absorption enough to want to care about her.

And, in the department-of-unanswered-questions, why are the teens the Liars? I don't need everything spelled out for me, but there must be something there ... Sinclair/Liar?

Since it's been so long since I listened to this (although the reveal is still quite clear) and the other audiobooks, I have it running in the background while I write this. Cady, in the first person, starts off letting you know something is wrong and so does Ariadne Meyers, the narrator. She reads in a pleasantly hoarse voice tinged with illness and hopelessness. You can hear the pain -- her accident has left her with unbearable headaches and blackouts-- in her narration. She reads precisely, almost as if she can't let the emotions go for fear of what might happen if she does. Then, when Cady tells us what actually happened, all those banked and denied feelings come free in Meyers' reading. It's a very moving narration, one that almost changed my mind about the book.

I've read (or listened to) a lot of E. Lockhart and so enjoy her smart, funny and empowered (I listened  to this one pre-blog) young women. And maybe what I really didn't like here is that Cady is so different from these teens. She's actually not much fun to be around (even before you know what's going on). I can appreciate Lockhart's work here, she carefully builds a world and just as carefully tears it down, but it's a cold appreciation.

[This photo is of Beechwoods at Giffordlands, Dalry, North Ayrshire, Scotland was taken by Rosser1954 and was retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.]

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Narrated by Ariadne Meyers
Listening Library, 2014. 6:27

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