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Literature / We Were Liars

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We were warm and shivering,
and young and ancient,
and alive.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is a 2014 young-adult novel about the wealthy, good-looking, all-American Sinclair family.

Something vital and extreme happened during Cadence Sinclair's fifteenth summer on her family's private island with said family and their family-friend Gat, but she can't remember what. Whatever did happen left her with crippling migraines and intense depressive symptoms.

So what the hell happened?

Cadence sets out to find the answer to this question when, after a year of separation and isolation, she reunites with her family and Gat. But it's not as joyous as she expects it to be. This summer, she gets to watch her entire family fall apart over something she doesn't remember, and something they won't tell her.


  • Aerith and Bob: The four Liars: Cadence, Mirren, Gatwick, and Johnny.
  • Anachronic Order: The story jumps around, mainly between the present summer and Summer Fifteen.
  • Driving Question: What happened at the end of Summer Fifteen?
  • Fairytale Motifs: Cadence makes up fairy tales that are clear allegories for the Sinclair family, casting her grandfather as king and her cousins as the children of the princesses. In the chapter where she finally remembers the true events of summer fifteen, she casts herself as the wicked witch who cursed them all.
  • Foreshadowing: Pay very close attention to when certain characters are "on screen" and when they're not. Gat, Johnny, and Mirren are always finding excuses not to be around anyone but Cadence. Why? Because they've been dead for almost a year, and are either hallucinations or ghosts.
  • Let the Past Burn: A dark variation. To the teenagers, Clairmont represented everything that was going wrong with their family. So they burned it down without really thinking it through, and the result was this: all but one of them died.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Although one couldn't truly call Cadence insane, her mental state is scrambled and awful by the present time, and she's an unreliable narrator.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Implied. What actually happened during Summer Fifteen was so horrific and scarring that Cadence forgot it happened.
  • Twist Ending: What did happen in Summer Fifteen? Gat, Johnny, and Mirren all died. Even though Cadence has supposedly been talking to them the entire book. Are they ghosts, or are they figments of her imagination? It's implied they're probably the latter. None of the readers saw this coming.