Remember shows like Dallas, Knots Landing, and one of my all old-time favorites, Beverly Hills 90210? I have to admit, I love stories about rich people and evidently, I'm not alone. Families with money make for great dramas! We get wrapped up in a world of grand
illusions. Beautiful things. Extravagant homes. The power and prestige that comes with affluence. We see ourselves living that lifestyle. But then the deceit is exposed and reality hits. (What's that new disease called? Affluenza?) And we thank God that isn't our life. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is a young adult book about a foursome of wealthy teens who make a complete mess of their lives. It's modern, suspenseful, heartbreaking, and delicious.
Before you devour the words, you'll view a map of Beechwood Island off the coast of Massachusetts. Complete with four grand beach houses, each with its own name, that are connected with wooden walkways, a boathouse, family docks, and of course, the staff house. The fairest house of all, Clairmont, is where Grandfather and Grandmother Sinclair (owners of the island) reside with three golden retrievers. The other homes, Red Gate, Cuddledown, and Windmere, are for each daughter (all three are divorced) and their families to occupy every summer. Gawking at the map alone, you'll get caught in the web of this prestigious family without an inkling of the lies yet to come.
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 are square, and tennis serves aggressive. It doesn't matter if trust-fund money is running out; if credit card bills go unpaid on the kitchen counter. We are Sinclairs. No one is needy. No one is wrong.
Setting the stage for a disturbing tale, Cadence (Cadi) shares her family's eccentric background. Her cousins, Mirren and Johnny, are her best friends who live in separate areas of New England. They spend every summer together on Beechwood Island. However, one year, Cadi's aunt brings her new boyfriend, Ed, and his handsome son, Gat. To the family's dismay, father and son are Asian-Indian. From then on, ethnicity meddles its way into the Sinclair's perfect, white world. Cadi is smitten with Gat which is obviously frowned upon. But she doesn't care about her family's disapproval and the four teens build innocent and fun beach memories together. Year after year. Until summer fifteen.
On a late July night, there's an accident. A big one. And that is when they become the liars.
Cadi doesn't remember the accident. She only knows that her mummy (how it's worded in the book) found her on the sand, curled into a ball and half underwater with nothing on but a bra, camisole, and underwear. Her cousins and Gat where nowhere around. Gat never came to her rescue.
Without saying good-bye to her family, Cadi and her mummy return to Vermont as Cadi deals with severe migraine headaches caused by brain injury. Pain pills are her only relief. If only someone would talk to her about the accident. It's as if it never happened. Her mummy forces her to travel with her dad through Europe the next summer as Cadi longs for the island and time with Mirren, Johnny, and Gat. She tries to contact them but gets no response. It's like they've disappeared until two summers later, they come together again in Beechwood. Summer seventeen.
Together again, the four teens hang out all summer, just like they used to. But it's different. Clairmont has been completely remodeled. Instead of the Victorian six-bedroom with a wraparound porch and farmhouse kitchen, the house is glass and iron. Mirren is sick a lot. And Mirren, Johnny, and Gat appear to have a secret world of their own. Cadi just wants in. She wants to know what happened that horrific July night. No one explains, excusing their silence to protect Cadi from further headaches. Yet the family greed and selfishness is gradually exposed leading Cadi to regain memories. Cadi mixes the haunting images together with past conversations and events that paint a picture of a truth so terrible that I couldn't even believe it myself. Hairs on the back of my neck stood erect and a shudder ran down my spine.
Let's face it. Money has the potential to make us wacko if we're not careful. We Were Liars reminds us the price of greed and selfishness. Is it really worth it? You'll have to read it and decide for yourself. Meanwhile, the next time you feel the urge to lie, do yourself a favor. DON'T!