Published by Delacorte Press on May 13, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Romance, YA
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
Okay. This book. I had been hearing about this book a lot (since I’m a book nerd and I research books all the time). I’ve been seeing rave reviews on Goodreads and other book blogs and I’ve seen it all over the shelves at Barnes & Noble. And I was intrigued. It has a good cover, mysterious (and very vague… don’t even get me started) inside flap description, and why not? Right? Well, I read it. And I was not a fan.
Let me tell you why it did not work…but why I’m still glad I stuck it out to the end.
Cadence Eastman Sinclair is a girl who spends her summers on her rich grandfather’s island with her three other friends/cousins – otherwise known as the four Liars. When she was 15, she suffers a serious head injury on the beach, resulting in utter amnesia of that summer and crippling migraines for years to come. Most of the plot unfolds two years later, her first summer back at the island, when she tries to piece together the true events of the infamous “Summer Fifteen.”
Here we go.
1. The sentence structure. The language. The stylistic choices Lockhart made. Whatever you want to call it…it wasn’t good. She used very short, direct sentences which, in some circumstances and with some writers, can work very well and can help improve your story. This was not the case. They were so short and direct that they felt choppy and unrealistic. Here’s an example:
“The moonlight made them all look blue.
‘Come down,’ he called.
What the heck is that? And why, why, why did she insist on putting those all in separate paragraphs? It interrupts the flow of things. It’s not natural. It’s not how we think or speak or do things. Everything is connected. This was a small thing, but I think it made a big difference. And, heck, it probably works for some readers…I was just not one of them.
2. The forced lyricality. This is something that is so common in YA books and one of my biggest YA pet peeve. It has me going like this:
Authors are good writers. Their books wouldn’t publish if they weren’t (hopefully, that is). They want to be lyrical and beautiful…but they have to consider their medium. If they’re speaking through the thoughts and words of 15-year-olds, they have to write thoughts and and dialogue that are realistic to a 15-year-old. And that did not happen in this book. There is a huge disparity between the lyricality of the main character Cadence’s thoughts and what actually came out of her mouth. I love examples, so here’s one just for you:
“So many stars, it seemed like a celebration, a grand, illicit party the galaxy was holding after the humans had been put to bed.” Calling all 15-year-olds! Is this how you think? No? No.
3. Weird metaphors. Metaphors can work well for you…but half the time I honestly couldn’t tell if her metaphors were real or not. Like, for instance, in the very first chapter (it’s like the fifth page, so I’m not giving anything away really) Cadence’s dad leaves them and it’s talking about the day he packs up and moves. “My father puts a last suitcase into the backseat of the Mercedes (he was leaving Mummy with only the Saab), and started the engine.” Then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell.” What. I was so shocked. My jaw dropped. I was like “Oh my word, her dad just shot her in the chest. Is she gonna be okay? What’s gonna happen? Oh my word.” It included a lot of me saying “oh my word.” I thought that she quite literally got shot in the chest. And as I continued, I wondered why the heck they weren’t addressing the fact that her own father just attempted murder on the main character. And then I realized he didn’t actually shoot her. Again I say… What.
4. (Last one, I promise) The random fairytales dispersed throughout the story. I love fairytales. I love, love, love them. And I’m guessing Lockhart does, too, because she included random chapters in the story of rewritten fairy tales. The point was, I guess, that Cadence was rewriting them to make them like her life, which honestly could be a great literary tool for a YA author. But there was no mention of Cadence ever writing in the actual plotline. Just random chapters where I guess she wrote something. It just seemed too obvious of a tool from Lockhart to make the story symbolic and what-not. No me gusta.
And now that you’ve heard my very well-said critique, I have to say, something did slightly redeem it from it’s very steep fall in my literary esteem.
The ending. This book was definitely supposed to intrigue you, make you want more. It makes you want to know what happened and try to predict it for yourself. And one of my biggest book pet peeves is when I can predict the ending from one of the first chapters (I’m looking at you, Nicholas Sparks). And I thought I knew what had happened in this book. What the big mystery was. But I can assure you that I was wrong. The ending was a complete surprise, something that gives my literary soul a little thrill.
This ending saved the book from the woes of a 1 star to a solid 2 or, if I’m feeling generous, a 2.5. This is really saying something, I think, since the endings of books are my favorite part. And despite all the bad that I gave you, I’m glad I finished the book so I could experience the ending.
Now, my friends, it’s up to you to decide if you want to read it. Honestly, I’m never going to read it again (a fact that makes me grateful for free library check-outs). But, like I said before, her writing techniques may work better for people who aren’t me…because I’m, well, not other people.
Take a chance. Read the book. You may regret it. But who knows? You may love it so much it’ll be like attending “a grand, illicit party the galaxy was holding after the humans had been put to bed.” Okay, that was sarcastic. It’s time for me to go.