• Happy birthday George Sullivan (Helen Keller: Her Life in Pictures), Joanna Cole (The Magic School Bus series), and Sally Keehn (I Am Regina, The First Horse I See).
  • It’s the birth date of Enid Blyton (1897-1968), Famous Five series, and Steven Kroll (1941-2011), Jungle Bullies, The Biggest Pumpkin Ever.
  • In 1929, Babe Ruth becomes the first baseball player to hit 500 home runs. Read Home Run: The Story of Babe Ruth by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Mike Wimmer, and Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Babe Ruth Baseball by David A. Adler.
  • The first prisoners arrive at Alcatraz Island in 1934. Read Children Of Alcatraz: Growing Up on the Rock by Claire Rudolph Murphy and Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.

During the summer months, I often look at books that conjure up summer vacations and settings. Our book of the day, E. Lockhart’s recently published We Were Liars, does exactly this. Exploring the world of the extremely rich, this realistic novel is set on a privately held island off the coast of Massachusetts where four friends, three of them cousins, vacation during the summer.

With a protected and well-preserved veneer of wealth and privilege, the Sinclairs are, as the title tells us, not particularly given to truth-telling. In fact, the book has one of the most engaging, unreliable narrators since Holden Caulfield of The Catcher in the Rye. From the title, readers know that they cannot trust seventeen-year-old Cadence Sinclair Eastman, who relates the events that take place on her family’s enclave.

Slowly, the details of this family’s less than ideal life emerge, and in addition to the mix of alcoholic parents and the estate’s ownership being fought over, four rebellious teenagers bring their own brand of destruction to the family. Much like the adult thriller Gone Girl, We Were Liars twists and turns until its end, pulling readers along at a breathless pace.

A spare, lean text makes the book quite accessible for readers aged thirteen and up. This is clearly a young adult book crafted with a wide audience in mind. While the book’s luxurious setting and the lives of the rich and famous, of course, help add to its appeal, Lockhart’s clever, intelligent storytelling carries the book along. We Were Liars will be one of those books that many will lose sleep over, reading into the night to find out what happens.

In recent years, young adult fiction has been dominated by vampire stories, dystopic novels, and fantasy, but We Were Liars, along with John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park have kept realistic fiction alive and well for the young adult audience. If you are hunting for a perfect end-of-summer beach read, pick up We Were Liars, and let E. Lockhart work her storytelling magic on you.

Here’s a passage from We Were Liars:

My full name is Cadence Sinclair Eastman.
I live in Burlington, Vermont
I live in Burlington, Vermont, with Mummy and three dogs.
I am nearly eighteen.
I own a well-used library card and not much else, though it is true I live in a grand house full of expensive, useless objects.
I used to be blond, but now my hair is black.
I used to be strong, but now I am weak.
I used to be pretty, but now I look sick.
It is true I suffer migranes since my accident.
It is true I do not suffer fools.
I like a twist of meaning. You see? Suffer migraines. Do not suffer fools. The word means almost the same as it did in the previous sentence, but not quite.
You could say it means endure, but that’s not exactly right.

Originally posted August 11, 2014. Updated for .

Tags: Family, Seasons, Summer
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for We Were Liars


  1. Kathy A says:

    I can’t wait to read this one. I just re-read Eleanor & Park for my adult book group. We had one of the best discussions we’ve ever had. Proves again that even with an unreliable narrator, I always find the truth in a novel.

  2. Judy Freeman says:

    My favorite YA of the years. I’m still thinking about it, 3 months after reading it.

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