It’s time for another devastating summer with the Sinclair family.
I was excited when I heard We Were Liars was getting a prequel. Like that book…the HOLD it had on us all in 2014. I remember blasting through it in 1 day and being throttled by the unreliable narration and the devastating twists. It also gave us a slight literary style that was very compelling. Although, confession incoming. 😂👌🏻 I forgot about 80% of We Were Liars. It’s been 8 years though, so I do think that’s fair. (I snuck in a reread after I finished Family Of Liars though.)
Anyway! Two things to know about Family Of Liars first: (1) this is a PREQUEL about the teenage years of the kids in We Were Liar’s parents. (2) It definitely spoils We Were Liars, so you do want to read it first. No spoilers in this review though!!
Family of Liars is a captivating and harrowing echo of We Were Liars and it delivers everything we loved from the first book.
It’s set in the 1980s and has this immaculate summer lethargy, languid and entrancing, and it was so easy just to keep reading chapter after chapter. The book is a bit longer, but I still flew through. The pace is slow and it builds up this ominous dread about what’s coming. And if we learned anything from We Were Liars it’s: (a) don’t trust the narrator completely 😪 and (b) prepare to have your heart hurt. I do really like the literary style, though it did drag a few times. (I’m not meaning to spend the whole review comparing the two books but 🤣 I think WWL pulled off the ominous tension better.)
This book centres around the four Sinclair sisters: Carrie, Penny, Beth and Rosemary. Carrie narrates and she’s 17 and of course it’s summer so they’re all spending time at their private island. It’s in the wake of the death of the youngest, Rosemary, who drowned when she was 10. So the family is clearly suffering but their class and mentality drives them to “suffer in silence” and “show no cracks”. They’d rather act like Rosemary never existed than face how it broke them. Carrie’s taking it really hard and has resorted to pills to cope.
“Rich unhinged people do richly unhinged things” is truly a genre of its own. It’s so fascinating and terrible and impossible to look away from (probably why I like reading these books so much). I cannot believe they still use this island with all the trauma that keeps happening there 💀 But they cannot abandon their assets or dare hint that the Sinclair family isn’t perfect and calm and wonderful. Also the way rich people will just use their wealth and power to cover things up is…something.
I did wish the book talked a bit more about privilege. When I reread WWL, I realised it actually talked about it way more (which was great) but this one only focuses on the internal way the family hurt each other, instead of the casual way they hurt others. Although Harris Sinclair was homophobic to Major (his part is tiny) and the repercussions of this did affect the girls in a big way. The book also felt excruciatingly white and didn’t draw attention to it. But it did unpack the toxic patriarchy a lot — pointing out how casually despicable teenage boys can be.
I don’t want to tell too much because it’s really better to go in knowing very little. But basically it’s about family trauma manifesting in seeing ghosts and falling apart and the cruel way pain twists your brain. It’s about three boys spending summer on the island with them and how badly that goes. It’s about three sisters who don’t realise they are competing hatefully until Something Happens, and then the sisters will do anything to fix themselves.
Am really glad I had a chance to read this! If I had to choose, I’d say We Were Liars was more shocking and had a bigger twist. But I enjoyed reading Family of Liars and more of this train wreck of an affluent, sometimes-terrible-sometimes-kind family.
Thanks to Allen & Unwin for the review copy!
Title: Family Of Liars (#0)
Author: E. Lockhart
Date Published: May 3rd, 2022
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Purchase: Book Depository, Dymocks
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The page-turning must-read thriller prequel to We Were Liars – #1 New York Times bestseller and TikTok sensation – takes readers back to the story of another summer, another generation, and the secrets that will haunt them for decades to come. Includes a hand-drawn map and family tree.
Prequel to WE WERE LIARS, the #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER and award-winning YA novel that TikTok can’t stop talking about!
A windswept private island off the coast of Massachusetts.
A hungry ocean, churning with secrets and sorrow.
A fiery, addicted heiress. An irresistible, unpredictable boy.
A summer of unforgivable betrayal and terrible mistakes.
Welcome back to the Sinclair family.
They were always liars.