We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: A Fellowship of the Worms SHOCKER

September 12, 2014 Book Club, Coming of Age 27

How Now, Bookworms?

smarty-mcwordypants-199x300 The Fellowship of the Worms is back in session! As you know, this month we read We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. It occurred to me that this book title would have been equally appropriate had it been by G. Lockhart, but I can only assume he’s still chilling in St. Mungo’s thanks to his own treachery. Way to be an ass, GILDEROY. WARNING: We will be discussing the WHOLE book. This will no doubt include SPOILERS. If you did not read the book and would like to participate, pick up a copy of We Were Liars and give it a read. This post will be here waiting for you when you finish. Now that the particulars are out of the way, I’ll remind you of the premise here. I’ll pose questions in bold and answer them in regular type.  If you don’t want your opinions influenced by my rantings, stick to the bold first. Feel free to answer them in the comments, or if you’re so inclined, on your own blog. A linky list will be provided at the end of this post for anybody who has reviewed We Were Liars on their own blog, even if it has nothing to do with the following discussion questions. Don’t be shy, please link up! Oh, and since the whole hook of this book is a surprise ending, please remember to issue spoiler alerts to your readers if appropriate.

1. Normally I attempt to work through these questions chronologically, but I simply can’t help myself. Was anybody well and truly shocked by the revelation at the end of this book? Knock, knock. Who’s there? Disappointment. Seriously, you guys. I wrote myself a note when I was 20% of the way through this book saying “the twist had better not be that the other three liars are dead, because that’s not much of a shocker.” I feel like I played a big part in my own disappointment though. If I hadn’t been on such high alert to suss out the shocking ending, maybe I wouldn’t have seen it coming. I mean, I probably still would have, because even hands-off parents don’t allow teenagers a house to themselves with zero family interaction on vacation, particularly if one of the teenagers has recently suffered a traumatic brain injury. Plus, even the most self absorbed youth respond to the emails and texts of their severely injured friends/cousins. Nobody’s that big a jerk. Maybe I should blame pop culture though… I’ve seen The Sixth Sense, and am now abnormally attuned to we were liarsthe details that might give away the secretly dead.

2. That said, do you think Cadence was lying about interacting with dead people? Having full on hallucinations? Or, you know, were there legit ghosts hanging around? I think she was hallucinating. Cadence was troubled, no doubt, and the Sinclairs were a hot mess, but I don’t think she was manipulative enough to have played off memory loss the way she did. And, despite my willingness to embrace the paranormal, I don’t think Cadence was being haunted. Brains do weird things when they experience trauma. Score one for hallucinations.

3. Despite the tragic end of the crime perpetrated by the Liars, did they in any way succeed in their goals? That’s tough to say. I mean, they wanted the family to quit fighting about money. They wanted their grandfather to quit pitting his daughters against each other. In some ways I suppose they were successful, since the Sinclairs were hit with a mega-dose of perspective when they compared the loss of their children to the money squabbling they’d been engaged in. Still though, they didn’t magically become the Cleavers or anything. Moral of the story? Arson is never the answer, kids!

4. Did you like the allusions to King Lear, Wuthering Heights (review), and fairy tales, or did you find them distracting? I love a good literary allusion. When Gat started explaining how he was Heathcliff to Cadence, I was all “YES! Spot on!” He also went on to talk about how Catherine and Heathcliff were horrible characters and in no way an appropriate model for romance (okay, maybe I’m projecting a little…) at which point I wanted to high five him. It made a nice change to want to high five a character instead of punch him. Way to go, Gat.

5. The Sinclairs own their own island and have named all the houses on it. Clairmont, Windmere, Red Gate, and (gag) Cuddledown. Would you ever name your home? I am neither especially wealthy nor especially pretentious, but I have been calling my home “The Gingerbread House” since the day we bought it. Of course, I’m also the sort of person who names cars, house plants, and the occasional penguin statue, so I’m not sure I’m a great case study. Seriously though, at least it’s not “Cuddledown.” I’m of the opinion “cuddle” should only be a part of something’s name if that thing is inherently fluffy. Or especially unfluffy, because irony is fun.

Talk to me Bookworms! What did y’all think of We Were Liars? If you’ve reviewed We Were Liars on your own blog or have answered the discussion questions, please link up! 

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27 Responses to “We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: A Fellowship of the Worms SHOCKER”

  1. Heather

    I had the big reveal figured out around page 50 (maybe a little sooner). I didn’t figure out HOW the rest of them had died (even though all the clues were there), just that they were dead. The book was good enough that figuring it out didn’t really bother me, though.

    As far as whether or not they were actually ghosts or whether she was hallucinating, I forced myself not to think about it too much. I enjoyed leaving that part ambiguous.

    • Words For Worms

      I definitely didn’t have it ALL worked out way in advance, I’ve got to give her credit there. I applaud you for enjoying the ambiguous, I have trouble with ambiguity and arbitrarily decide things when they aren’t laid out for me.

  2. AMB (Koiviolet)

    I actually already knew about the twist before I started the novel. It’s a very hard twist to pull off. I’ll be back later to say more and to answer your questions! 🙂

    • AMB

      Okay… I have a few minutes between calls, so I’m back: 🙂

      (1)Was I surprised by the ending? Well, no, but I already knew the ending before I read the book. As I discussed in my post, what surprised me was how unbelievable the twist was. Cady never googled herself? No one ever did a thorough arson investigation? Come on, there was gasoline all over that house and all over Cady. These are wealthy people, but wealth didn’t protect Michael Skakel or Edward Kennedy. There would’ve been a ton of press at least!

      (2) Hmmmm. I don’t think Cady was lying about her interactions with her cousins and Gat, whether “real” (as ghosts) or imagined. It was interesting that Cady grew, while the rest of Liars didn’t. If these were hallucinations, wouldn’t she see herself in the same proportion to Gat as she was when they were fifteen (he’d stay a few inches taller)? I don’t think about people as being a specific height–I think about them as being a little taller or a lot taller than I am (and they stay that way in my memory).** Perhaps, though, she may subconsciously known they were hallucinations.

      (3) I don’t think the arson changed the Sinclair family’s values that much. Maybe they fight about money less–because they’re too preoccupied by grief–but didn’t Penny still get annoyed at Cady for saying something that decreased the likelihood they’d get the house? (I don’t have the novel w/me to verify my facts). Harris is still prejudiced against Ed, continuing to barely tolerate him. The person whose perspective changed with the fire was Cady.

      (4) Yes, I loved the literary references! Gat’s on my side! I talked about this in my post.

      (5) I haven’t named my house, but I’m not opposed to it. I’d never name anything “Cuddledown,” though! It looked so awkward on the page.

      Thanks for the discussion, Katie!

      **I have no idea if I’m making any sense at all!

      • Words For Worms

        Haha! I do the SAME THING when I think about people’s height! They’re all either shorter than me, a lot shorter than me, taller than me, or a lot taller than me. I almost cheered when I saw your note about the Wuthering Heights reference! That book is such a trigger for me when people call it a romance. IT IS NOT ROMANTIC. DO NOT USE A LINE FROM THAT NOVEL ON YOUR WEDDING PROGRAM.

  3. Amy @ Read a Latte

    1. Normally I attempt to work through these questions chronologically, but I simply can’t help myself. Was anybody well and truly shocked by the revelation at the end of this book?

    I actually was! I really thought maybe the other Liars just felt guilty about what happened to Cadence, and couldn’t bring themselves to face her. I was truly shocked when I saw what actually happened. And this is from the person who called Gone Girl from the beginning!

    2. That said, do you think Cadence was lying about interacting with dead people? Having full on hallucinations? Or, you know, were there legit ghosts hanging around?

    I think they were hallucinations too. The only part that made me (somewhat) doubt that they were hallucinations was the fact that Cuddledown was a complete mess. The fact that she had been there so long ALONE and made the whole mess creeped me out.

    3. Despite the tragic end of the crime perpetrated by the Liars, did they in any way succeed in their goals?

    I mean, the parents aren’t fighting anymore, but that’s largely due to the fact that they’re processing the loss of their children. Though maybe it put into perspective that material things and money don’t matter nearly as much. So maybe they did accomplish something. It obviously came at a terrible price, though.

    4. Did you like the allusions to King Lear, Wuthering Heights, and fairy tales, or did you find them distracting?

    I’ve never actually read King Lear of Wuthering Heights, but I did enjoy the fairy tale versions of what was going on!

    5. The Sinclairs own their own island and have named all the houses on it. Clairmont, Windmere, Red Gate, and Cuddledown. Would you ever name your home?

    When I have my own place, yes! I currently have a Ford Focus I named Norman the day I got it, and will likely follow suit with a house. I didn’t like the name Cuddledown though, either! I thought it was just me, but something about it just seemed off, especially given the circumstance.

    • Words For Worms

      Oh gosh, yeah Cuddledown was absolutely filthy. Of course, I’m not especially neat when left to my own devices. If I were having a psychotic break I imagine I’d be a walking disaster. I love that your car’s name is Norman! My first car was named Patrick, though he was named when I got him (we bought him from family friends) so I never changed it. None of my attempts to name later vehicles have stuck though.

  4. Charleen

    I was totally planning on doing my own post and linking up… but I just didn’t enjoy the book enough to devote blog space to it, so I’ll just answer here:

    1. I actually didn’t see it coming (at least not as early as you did), but I was really distracted by all the things I didn’t like about the book, which made it easier to turn off my mind and not look for the big explosive ending. I figured maybe if I experienced it the way the author wanted me to, it might help redeem a book I wasn’t really excited about (which might have been the case if it was a more unique twist). The fact that they set the fire at all surprised me, and it wasn’t until maybe halfway through that section that I suspected.

    2. Hallucinations. Someone else mentioned the mess as an issue, but I think part of hallucinating can be making a huge mess yourself (like, just having a total breakdown and flinging things across the room) and then blacking it out and coming up with an explanation for it that fit your hallucination. I don’t know if that’s the way it works in real life, but I totally buy it in fiction.

    3. Well… yes and no. Not to say that they’ll ever get over it, but I could totally see several years down the line when it’s not so raw starting to revert back to their older selves. The plus(?) side is that maybe by then the grandfather will be gone, so at least the sisters wouldn’t have someone manipulating their squabbling. But I can easily see that event itself causing more friction (squabbling over the inheritance) than causing them to band together to face another death.

    4. The allusions that were worked into the story (like Cady and Gat discussing Wuthering Heights) were good, but I didn’t care for the fairy tale interludes. I also didn’t care for the style of writing in general, and the parts where it slipped into poetry in particular. This is a book as much (if not more) about the way it’s told than the story itself, and unfortunately the way it’s told did nothing for me.

    5. Only if I moved into an old, extravagant house that already had a name. That would be pretty cool, I think (as long as I liked the name, obviously), but I don’t think I could ever name my own house.

    Final thought: what was the deal with the title? It just didn’t seem to fit. I mean, I get that it’s meant to make you distrust the narrator before you even start reading… but the fact that they call themselves “the Liars” was never explained, so it just felt like a weak way to work in a title that didn’t really fit in the first place. I think it would have been better to stick with the title, but remove all references to Liars in the text, and just have it be totally unrelated… which might still be odd, but less odd than trying to make it work (if that makes sense).

    Or I’m just being unnecessarily critical because I was so underwhelmed by the book. I could tell right away I’d be better off DNF’ing (like I said, the writing just bugged me right off the bat) but hype and curiosity and the fact that it was such a quick read and the fact that it was a Fellowship of the Worms book all conspired to make me push ahead.

    • Words For Worms

      I’m sorry that it was such a crappy pick for you, but I’m kind of giggling to myself imagining the expressions you made as you hate-read this. The title doesn’t make sense to me either. They just randomly started calling themselves Liars? Why? I mean, they didn’t go around lying a ton as small children or anything, how did the nickname come to be?!

  5. Alicia

    Yay, my first Fellowship of the Worm participation! I was looking forward to your thoughts on this.

    1. Normally I attempt to work through these questions chronologically, but I simply can’t help myself. Was anybody well and truly shocked by the revelation at the end of this book?

    I actually was completely shocked by the ending, and when I discovered what the author was doing, I just thought “easy out.” It just seemed too much like the author was done writing and so the book was going to end, now. When the twist was revealed, I had to read the transition a few times, because I just kept thinking, “wait, what just happened?”

    2. That said, do you think Cadence was lying about interacting with dead people? Having full on hallucinations? Or, you know, were there legit ghosts hanging around?

    I believe she was having full on hallucinations. I think she was dealing with some sort of post-traumatic stress issues and this was the result.

    3. Despite the tragic end of the crime perpetrated by the Liars, did they in any way succeed in their goals?

    I believe that whatever behavior the father and sisters were exhibiting now is temporary. Their behaviors pre-accident were pretty intense and self-serving. I think in the future they will return to the “me-me-me” attitude.

    4. Did you like the allusions to King Lear, Wuthering Heights (review), and fairy tales, or did you find them distracting?

    I thought it was a nice tie-in. It didn’t add or take away from the book, it was just there for me.

    5. The Sinclairs own their own island and have named all the houses on it. Clairmont, Windmere, Red Gate, and (gag) Cuddledown. Would you ever name your home?

    To be honest I was just grossed out by the pretentiousness of how the Sinclairs lived their life. The naming of the homes was the icing on the cake. When I would read about how they were The Sinclairs, my skin would crawl. It wasn’t the writing though, just the descriptions. If the author wanted me to feel that way then she did a great job! I haven’t named my home yet, but maybe one day, haha!

    Reading this book reaffirmed my thoughts on YA, and that I generally have a hard time with this genre. I WISH so much that I loved it. My friends love it and they are always reading books that I can’t quite get in to. I have been reading literary fiction since I was 13, so that probably explains that.

    • Words For Worms

      Wahoo Alicia! Glad to have you here! I think you make an excellent point about the Sinclairs. Did they really change? Probably not once the distraction of intense grief wears off. There were glimmers of it coming back already, now that I think about it. YA can be very hit or miss for me, but I like to dabble. I’m very glad you decided to join in despite your reservations on the genre :).

  6. Elizabeth

    1. Was anybody well and truly shocked by the revelation at the end of this book?

    Yes! Totally shocked. And unlike everybody else, I thought it worked. Even though the “I see dead people” aspect was a bit of a groaner, I bought the idea that a teenager who went through such a trauma would see, do, and think those things.

    2. Hallucinations. I don’t think ghosts work that way…but then again I’m not a ghost expert.

    3. Succeed in their goals? I think the part at the end about how the grandpa still doesn’t like Ed but he’s keeping it to himself is implying that, yes, the family is changed.

    4. I hated the fairy tales and found them distracting, but the Heathcliff references were pretty exciting.

    5. If I owned multiple properties I bet I would name them. For now, “our house” is unambiguous. 🙂 Was there any symbolism in the house names in this book? I kind of don’t care enough to think about it deeply. But I thought it was helpful for all the Sinclair houses to have names, since they were argued about so often.

    • Words For Worms

      Ha! High five for “I see dead people.” The Sixth Sense was great and all, but, like you, I don’t think ghosts work that way either. I hadn’t thought about how much more difficult this book would have been to keep tabs on if the houses were unnamed, because, as you mention, they were practically characters unto themselves.

  7. ThatAshGirl

    I didn’t get a chance to read along with this one. I hate it when in a book or movie you can predict the ending very early on. Spoils the fun because I love that OMG moment when something is revealed.

  8. Sarah @ Sarah's Book Shelves

    I’m so glad you saw the end coming…because I felt like a total idiot for NOT seeing it coming. Like you said, “I’ve seen the Sixth Sense”…well, I have too and all I could think after I finished Liars was…”duh, you’ve seen the Sixth Sense, how did you not see that coming?!”. I felt like a bad and lazy reader 🙁

    I read a similar book right after Liars, Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, and I liked it even more than Liars (even though I did like Liars). The writing is much more observant about the quirky lifestyle of the very wealthy and the plot twists are much more complicated…and realistic.

  9. Kelly

    When I was in second grade, my best friend’s mom called me early in the morning and told me school was cancelled because it was too sunny outside. I promptly hung up and changed back into my PJs. My mom was pretty ticked when she had to get me dressed and rush me out the door 10 minutes later, because school was obviously still happening.

    The moral of that story is, I completely did not see this ending coming and was 100% shocked and surprised by it. However, I am the world’s most gullible person, so that may not be a majority opinion. That said, the ending is pretty great if you don’t predict it!

    And yes, Cuddledown. Worst house name ever.

    I really enjoyed this book, but my one big issue is that there were too many convenient details that made it work. Biggest one being that the family was all WHATEVER about Cadence’s involvement in the fire (I know they may not really have figured it out, but still), and also Gat’s parents never raised a stink over his death? Never asked for an investigation into the fire? That all seemed kind of odd to me. Those are details that I think would have been fleshed out more in an adult novel, but because it was YA I felt like it was glossed over so that Cadence’s issues could be the one and only focus.

    Apologies for breaking all the rules and not answering your questions in order!

  10. Jenny @ Reading the End

    Ugh, I just can’t with this book. I’ve enjoyed reading the reviews for this book club, and they have also confirmed for me that I cannot handle reading We Were Liars. It’s just too much sadness for me. :(:(:(

  11. Jennine G.

    I didn’t see the ending coming, but I also hadn’t read any review telling me to watch for a twist. And I figured a family rich enough to have an island of their own with multiple houses probably wouldn’t be paying much attention to what their kids were doing…which seems to be true since they left them alone and they set fire to the main house. So the ending shocked me.

  12. Andi

    When I got to the end I think I actually said (out loud!), “SHE WENT THERE.” I’d already guessed it but thought it was too obvious. Oh well. Even though the ending didn’t blow me away, I loved the writing in this one.

  13. Ashley Z

    Am I the only one who didn’t figure out the big reveal until it was actually revealed in the book? Oh, well.
    1- I wouldn’t say I was shocked. It kind of all made sense after it was made known the other 3 Liars were actually dead.
    2-I believe Cadence was definitely having some sort of hallucinations. Her own way of dealing with the events and accepting what actually happened? I’m sure in her mind she for sure was having the conversations she wished she could have with the other Liars.
    3-I guess they did succeed in their goals. the tragedy for sure stopped the fighting and brought the family together in a way.
    4- When Gat (I kinda was falling for this kid and his witty ways) compared himself to Heathcliff, I thought that was pretty spot-on.
    5- Ok, my hubby and I always joke that our house is named “The spot under the storm-cloud (pretty much sums up our entire 11years in our home) lol. I have never named a car though. I am considering naming my bedroom cuddletown. ummm…nope, not really!

    I enjoyed this book. Something kind of out of the norm for our little club. Fast, easy read!

  14. Hobbie DeHoy

    First time taking part in the book club! I probably wouldn’t have finished We Were Liars either, except that I was so excited about an online book club I couldn’t bear to check out. I described this book to my friend as “creepy” and “disturbing,” and now my thirteen-year-old daughter totally wants to read it… so I guess the author has reached the target audience? I knew nothing about the book, and didn’t see the ending coming at all. I wasn’t looking for a twist, and I was reading at a push-through-this-book level, which may be why I missed it. I usually do see obvious endings a mile away. Given all her trauma, I am sure Cady was hallucinating her cousins. I don’t think the arson helped the family situation at all; I think all the people in the family were just as miserable and in conflict with one another as they were at the beginning of the book. I enjoyed the literary allusions (especially WH), but the fairy tales were a little off, I thought. My general opinion is that naming your house is unbearably pretentious, but I see that here it was useful as method of clarifying what was happening where. And the Sinclairs were unbearably pretentious themselves, so it all fits. And Cuddledown? Seriously? Ick. I do name my cars, and I’m currently driving Tessa Toyota. I hope to take part again, this is fun!

    • Words For Worms

      Wahoo! Welcome Hobbie! Clearly you belong here, as Tessa Toyota will attest :). I’d be interested to hear what your daughter thinks of it. I like to think a 13 year old would be less skeptical and be genuinely surprised by the ending!

  15. raidergirl3

    Very late to the party! I read this in November after glancing at AMB’s review, which intrigued. Then I never thought of it again or even why I requested it from the library. So I was completely surprised by the reveal. I didn’t think much while reading it, so was pretty gobsmacked, but it did make sense. Hallucinations as she tried to process everything for sure; and while she didn’t know, and wanted to know what happened, she also knew and didn’t want to find out yet. The brain can do crazy things trying to protect a person.

    I just wanted to comment on the name Cuddledown. During his time in university, my brother in law and 4 other guys lived in a small pink house, which came with the name Cuddledoon. It was a party house, and the poor little Cuddledoon barely survived them, but the dichotomy of the name and the residents made it a pretty famous place.

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