Note: There are no spoilers in this review.
This story is narrated by Cadence (“Cady”) Sinclair Eastman, now 17, and concerns the summer two years prior, which Cady spent on the private island off the coast of Massachusetts owned by her wealthy family, the Sinclairs. The four teens who hung out together each summer were called “The Liars” by the family, and included Cady, her cousins Johnny and Mirren, and one of the aunt’s nephews by marriage, Gat Patil.
In the summer they were fourteen, things changed between Cady and Gat:
“One day I looked at Gat, lying in the Clairmont hammock with a book, and he seemed, well, like he was mine. Like he was my particular person.”
Gat was the only one among them who did not live a life of privilege when he wasn’t on the island, and he felt the class difference acutely. In addition, he was Indian, and he was aware of the unspoken censure of the older Sinclairs, who, he thought, must have compared him to Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. He tried to raise the social consciousness of the others, but they were on the island to have fun, and regularly pooh-poohed his efforts at serious conversation. But when Cady fell for Gat, she began to listen.
And then, when Cady was 15, something happened on the island, something bad; so bad that even Cady doesn’t know what it was. Her story takes us with her on her search, two years later, for the truth.
Discussion: Ordinarily I try to eschew books about rich kids, but this one is by E. Lockhart, who is, as you may know, the author of the notable Printz Award Honor Book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. If you recall from that excellent book (you can see my review here), this author is all about social and gender justice, and is eminently worth reading.
In this story, it is never absolutely clear why the adults called the teens “the Liars,” especially because the teens regularly refused to do the lying their parents demanded of them to ensure that Granddad, dispenser of the family fortune, was appeased. Cady’s mother in particular always tried to insist that Cady cover up her emotions and hide her feelings:
“‘Don’t cause distress,’ she said. ‘Don’t remind people of loss.’ ‘Do you understand, Cady? Silence is a protective coating over pain.’”
But Cady is overcome by pain, physical and mental, and until she unravels its cause, it will continue to feel like she (who has quite a graphic imagination) is being shot or stabbed, with her heart rolling out of her rib cage, and blood gushing from her wounds. Her mother’s primary reaction to her sloppy show of feelings is to snap at her to get a hold of herself. Cady knows that if she is to endure her suffering, she has to break through the fabric of lies that binds the family, and somehow come out the other side with the determination to carry on.
Evaluation: This book is a stunner. Wish I could tell you how and why, but it would be too spoilery…. Because there is so much to discuss, it would also make a great choice for book clubs. I’d say, don’t miss it!
Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 2014