Book Wake

Following good stories wherever they lead

Summer Haze: We Were Liars

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Meet the Liars.

They are teenaged scions of the Sinclair family: beautiful and blessed, witty and gifted. Every summer, they gather at Beachwood Island with their family, each stationed in a separate mansion on the estate.

Cadence, Mirren, Johnny, and Gat.

Cadence, the protagonist, leads us through this story, and its strength rests on her.

She is bright, and broken, and you can’t help but listen to her sharp narrative as she introduces our players. A teenager, she speaks in unashamedly overblown terms to illustrate her feelings — but it’s a little too keenly observant for it to be just self-centered whining. It’s more like she’s creating a series of cameos, short illustrations of the essence of experiences: here is what belonging feels like.

And here is betrayal.

And this is grief.

It seems brave, for someone in a rigidly repressed family — square chins held high — to talk this way, if only in her own head.

And it leaks out. Her mother frantically orders her to “be normal.” But you get the sense of a hurricane trapped in a glass box…something is going to crack.

And then we get to the night Cadence can’t remember, and things in this book get more interesting.

I love narratives where things are hidden — either deliberately obscured or simply left unsaid — because it feels like a secret, whispered to the reader. Can you guess? These books seem to ask. Do you know?

Along with our character, we get excellent atmosphere setting. If you’ve never been on an island vacation, read a few descriptions of Cadence’s summer days and you’ll get there — the lazy pace, the crisp tastes and smells, the queer isolation of the wind and waves.

And the dynamics of The Liars, Cadence’s group of family/friend/love, a small spinning universe that only phases into being on that island, during those summers. Bonds that are both unbreakable and nonexistent.

Beachwood Island is a magical place — but magic conjures both dreams and nightmares. And in a space where anything can happen, how can you avoid the darker edges of possibility?

Don’t read this book for “the twist” (I’d advise not doing that for any book — you spend so much time looking for it that you miss the real pleasure in the experience). Read it for Cadence’s voice, for the rhythm of her words (no pun intended), for the spell she casts on this island, or it casts on her.

And remember the Liars.

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This entry was posted on October 12, 2014 by in YA and tagged .
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