Thursday, May 15, 2014

Story within the Story

E. Lockhart

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is right there with Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and the film The Usual Suspects, in that you think you have your bearings, and then suddenly you don't. But the author's sure hand steering the story keeps your complete faith nonetheless. And her dexterity with language is a marvel.

Lockhart's novel stars three wealthy cousins: narrator Candace, Mirren and Johnny--and Johnny's socially conscious best friend, Gat. Together, they form the Liars of the title. Gat questions the things the cousins take for granted, and slowly chips away at their once unshakeable faith that their privilege can secure their happiness. This transition from inheriting values from one's parents to questioning them and then forging one's own values lies at the core of this coming-of-age novel.

We believe the conversation between these 15-year-olds. Candace falls in love with Gat, then has an accident and is left with no recollection of it. Lockhart weaves in Shakespeare plots and fairy tales, Cadence's constructions to puzzle out what occurred and why she has no memory of it: Granddad Sinclair as Lear; Beauty sees the glory in the Beast, but her father "sees a jungle animal." Did the overwhelming loss of her father's abandonment and her grandmother's death, together with her forbidden love for Gat lead to Cadence's accident and amnesia?

Adults will appreciate Lockhart's consummate storytelling, but teens will relate to the unfamiliar and unwanted role of parenting one's parent, and trying to become who they truly are, which is not necessarily who the adults want them to be.

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