Discussion location: The Woodman’s – the tallest burger we’ve ever seen!

Chosen by: Susan

Reason for choice: Saw it on Amazon/Kindle for 99p – winner!  (And her best choice yet)


Lockheart(known as Emily Jenkins on her non-YA days)’s We Were Liars might just be the first YA literature we’ve reviewed. To add to that, it’s pretty difficult to review this novel without giving away something that might ruin the ending for you. So, I’ll be brief (perhaps the reason the novel itself is so short).

In what might seem like a familiar opening, protagonist Cadence Sinclair unexplainably has amnesia. The oldest grandchild of a wealthy all-American family, Cadence returns to the private island where the Sinclairs spend their summers. A private island populated only by the four houses they built, an idyllic paradise where everyone can be someone different to their normal lives, where any problems, deaths, or tragedies simply aren’t mentioned.

Two summers earlier, something happens to Cadence on the island that causes her amnesia, and in the cloaked environment where her family refuse to talk about it, plagued by migraines and befuddled by tablets, Cadence tries to fill the gaps in her memory. In short, fragmented chapters, she recovers scraps of knowledge in real-time, present-tense, first-person prose, piecing together the jigsaw of what happened to her.

Lockheart’s ability to build suspense in the novel is complemented beautifully by her descriptions of the island and the Sinclairs. Cadence’s cousins, Johnny and Mirren, and her aunt’s-sort-of-stepson-and-outsider Gat, her grandfather, and his three daughters, an old money family. Beautiful, tall, and blonde, good noses, and strong heritage, going out on the boat to get ice cream, eating lobster, and basking in long summers, the novel is richly written and evocative.

However, despite this thin facade, Lockheart conveys how wealth and privilege fail to afford contentment or happiness in any of the characters. In her allusions to King Lear and inheritance disputes, and to Wuthering Heights and forbidden love, this YA novel has its roots in classic literature. Ignore the labels, this book is well worth a read.

Overall score: 8/10