This post is full of lies

Title: We Were Liars

Author: E. LockhartCover art for We Were Liars

Publisher & Release Date: Delacorte, May 2014

The Hook: Something happened two summers ago, something Cady doesn’t remember.

The Lowdown (from jacket):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.
True love.
The truth.

Overall Impressions:  “Wow.”

Emily and Julie both read this one and it left us feeling shell-shocked.

We shall now attempt to describe the book without actually telling you anything. We may have already told you everything you need to know, in which case, we simply recommend you read this book. Then make your friends and co-workers read it so you can discuss it with them. You will want to.

“We Were Liars” is a powerful, well-crafted tale about the effects of privilege, an illustration of why having money does not exempt people from human misery. It’s one generation looking at another, falling in line or standing firm. It’s passionate, romantic love clashing with family ties, threaded through with fairy tales. Love can build. It can also destroy. It glosses over ugliness and holds up mirrors.

Once upon a time, a man married, grew rich and had three daughters. The daughters grew, beautiful and special, and they married and had children…

The Highs-

Emily: “I love an unreliable narrator because I love the mind-warping. I love not knowing what you’re getting into.”

Julie: Gorgeous, compact writing. I loved the structure of the book, the patterns, sinking into it, the stories Cady writes as she tries to remember. It stands up just as well on second reading.

Both: Strong, full characters. The family dynamics and how they twist around the four groups. How you’re left wanting more, wondering about the characters’ futures, and yet the story feels complete.

The island so isolated, the family so insulated. Emily noted a similarity to a micro-dystopia.

The cover art and how it looks not quite real; summer but dreamy, foggy, out of focus. Perfect.

Buzzkills: We did differ somewhat on how we felt about the layout of the writing. Some parts looked similar to free verse, which Julie liked and Emily does not generally care for.

The Source: Galleys provided by publisher at an ABA event.

Disclaimer: Neither chocolate nor a private island was provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.

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She can see emotions but she can’t feel them.

Cover artwork for Some Quiet Place

Title: Some Quiet Place

Author: Kelsey Sutton

Publisher & Release Date: Flux, July 2013

The Hook: Eye-catching cover art, a heroine who feels no emotion, and a stellar review from Kirkus, which listed it as one of the best teen novels of 2013.

The Lowdown (from author’s webpage): “Elizabeth Caldwell doesn’t feel emotions . . . she sees them. Longing, Shame, and Courage materialize around her classmates. Fury and Resentment appear in her dysfunctional home. They’ve all given up on Elizabeth because she doesn’t succumb to their touch. All, that is, save one—Fear. He’s intrigued by her, as desperate to understand the accident that changed Elizabeth’s life as she is herself.

“Elizabeth and Fear both sense that the key to her past is hidden in the dream paintings she hides in the family barn. But a shadowy menace has begun to stalk her, and try as she might, Elizabeth can barely avoid the brutality of her life long enough to uncover the truth about herself. When it matters most, will she be able to rely on Fear to save her?”

Overall Impressions:  An impressive debut! Sutton created a story that feels both dreamy and gritty – beautiful imagery of Emotions and Elements in human form, invisible to our eyes, an Other World twisted around being trapped in a small farming town in an abusive home. Elizabeth is a compelling character, and I became thoroughly wrapped up in the mystery of her and her quest to solve herself.

That said, I also have some qualms about the ways in which violence was used in this story. For example, in trying to make Elizabeth feel emotion, Fear puts in her scenarios that, if they took place on a TV show (and weren’t happening to the main character), it would be the teaser before the opening wherein some attractive nameless young woman dies horribly. But on the other hand, Fear is trying to make Elizabeth feel afraid and she always quickly realizes it’s him and not entirely real. It would be fascinating to have a conversation with the author about what she’s trying to say in these layers.

I remain wary of love triangles. I’m not sure if I can really say this book has one, because Elizabeth is kind of a non-participant, given her walled-off emotions, and Fear and Joshua can’t really interact. Either way, I respect the choices Elizabeth made.

The storyline about the dying friend was touching and I understood its purpose in the book, but it also felt the least … organic. I think that’s because while you see Elizabeth making the deliberate choice to interact with Joshua and in small ways with her family, Maggie and Elizabeth’s friendship dates back to when they were little girls and you don’t know why Elizabeth chose to keep interacting with Maggie.

Toward the end of the book one of the characters tells Elizabeth that people are drawn to her, yet the book shows her primarily as an outcast. She involves herself in very few people’s lives – everything is a pretend, she must always act the part of normal and her efforts to do so make many people uncomfortable, including her parents. They actually fear her.

The Highs: I really love the cover art – gorgeous and creepy. The story itself balanced dreamy and real and scary so well.

The mystery of Elizabeth and how it resolves, who she grows into in the course of the story. The gradual deepening of the Other World. That Elizabeth is the one who ultimately has to save herself.

Buzzkills: Everything’s handled really well, but this story does deal with a physically and verbally abusive father, nasty school bullying that turns vicious, and some very disturbing violence from the shadowy menace. The first real encounter with the SM happens right after the vicious bully attack and there were elements that made the power imbalance even more uncomfortable for me.

The Source: Ebook from awesome public library!

Disclaimer: Neither chocolate nor a gorgeous ballgown that looks like leaves was provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.