FAMILY OF LIES
By E. Lockhart
Sometimes a book is a book and sometimes a book is a phenomenon. E. Lockhart’s 2014 YA psychological thriller “We Were Liars” is without a doubt a phenomenon.
The novel follows Cady Sinclair, a teenager recovering from amnesia after a mysterious accident. The Sinclairs lead a charmed life – they are rich and spend the summers on their private island of Beechwood – but Cady gradually remembers that her family is also hiding devastating secrets.
“We Were Liars” became a blockbuster bestseller — not just when it was originally published in 2014, but years later, in 2020, when it became a viral TikTok sensation, with legions of fans uploading emotional videos of their reactions to the unexpected ending. of the novel and on the themes of the story’s young summer love.
Now comes a prequel, “Family of Liars,” which takes us back to Beechwood — but decades before Cady was born, focusing on her Aunt Carrie.
Carrie grew up in Boston with three sisters. Shortly after the book opens, a sister drowns in Beechwood, and after jaw surgery, Carrie becomes addicted to the painkiller codeine.
In this state, grieving and addicted to narcotics, Carrie sets off for Beechwood, where she discovers that her cousin has invited three non-Sinclair boys to visit, including the flirtatious, irresistible Pfeff.
As the summer progresses, Carrie’s relationships with her family, addiction, grief, and Pfeff intensify, not always for the better. But as her father reminds her, “the Sinclairs take care of things when they need to be taken care of.”
As a prequel, “Family of Liars” has a difficult task – it must tap into the zeal of the original novel for returning readers, without confusing new ones. It’s a delicate dance, and Lockhart usually succeeds: “Family” offers insight into Beechwood and familiar characters, enriching the understanding of the first book, but it never feels like a side dish to a “We Were Liars” appetizer .
That’s because “Family of Liars” is more of a Carrie character study than a sequel thriller. Of course there are questions that need to be answered. Will Carrie’s Addiction Be Discovered? Why has her dead sister suddenly reappeared? Who is the man in the photo who is hiding Carrie’s mother? But the heart of the story lies in the more existential questions Carrie faces: What does family mean to her? How does she grieve for her sister? Is Carrie ready for romance? These are heavy themes, and Lockhart’s writing as she digs them up is poetic and thoughtful. In Carrie, Lockhart has created her most recognizable ‘Liars’ character ever.
But “Family of Liars” is fumbling. Although Carrie is portrayed vividly, the other residents of Beechwood feel vague and indistinct. And the plot twists and turns, dropping characters and storylines for chapters at a time. That means some of the book’s big revelations land intellectually rather than emotionally. Still, I remained invested in “Family of Liars” even when it lagged, because after reading “We Were Liars,” I expected it to take a shocking turn at some point. And, wow, does it ever.
The prequel wants to stand on its own, and technically it does; you don’t have to have read the previous book to to understand this new. But for the best pleasure from “Family of Liars”, read “We Were Liars” first. Carrie’s silent struggle with her family in this prequel resonates more strongly when viewed alongside Cady’s more explosive challenges in the original. The novels are like the Sinclairs themselves – they are richer together.
FAMILY OF LIES, by E. Lockhart | 299 pages | Delacorte Press | $19.99 | 13 years and older