As the longer days of summer started to stretch out, the Brown Baggers visited a private island near Martha’s Vineyard by reading We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. The choice was a bit of a departure for the group, as it is generally classified as a Young Adult book. This point started off our discussion, as some group members wondered about the subject matter and how appropriate it is for teenagers. As the group contains a number of librarians, both retired and current, there was a valiant defense in favor of a wide range of YA content. This did lead to an absorbing tangent about fiction classification, especially for books that have a wide appeal across age groups.
Other reactions to the book were mixed. Many group members felt the story of a privileged family’s decline was not particularly groundbreaking, and even with some twists, was not unique enough to justify reading. We also discussed the real life family dynasties of the Kennedys, Roosevelts, and others and how they have either thrived or crumbled. The group also explored how the structure of the book echoed King Lear as well as many fairy tales — this made more obvious by the regularly inserted stories of 1-2 pages.
Other complaints about the book were that the family did not really seem to change or adapt in a meaningful way, nor did many of the characters seem to warrant the reader’s interest or pity. Without giving too much away, Cady’s unreliability as narrator also confused a few of the plot points. While this may not have been a favorite book of any of the Brown Baggers, it was enlightening to read a YA novel and discuss not just the book, but other complexities of fiction as a genre.
Find other books by E. Lockhart in the JMRL catalog here.
Also find E. Lockhart’s children’s books under the name Emily Jenkins.
Read a review of We Were Liars in the New York Times by another popular adult/YA crossover author, Meg Rosoff.
Looking for a readalike? Try one of these titles or ask for a recommendation through JMRL’s What Do I Read Next?
Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
The Rumor by Elin Hildebrand
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly
Young Adult fiction:
Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Emily Standiford
Tighter by Adele Griffin
Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Join the Brown Baggers on July 16 at noon to discuss Thank You, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse.