We Were Liars focuses on the wealthy Sinclair family, owners of the Beechwood Island off Martha's Vineyard, where each of the three daughters have their own houses, along with their parents. The main character is fifteen year old Cadence, whose friendship with her cousins Johnny and Mirren and family friend Gat forms the basis of the Liars.The family has always spent the summers on the island and it is during this fifteenth summer that Cadence discovers she is in love with Gat, but it's also during this summer (the first after her grandmother Tipper has died) that the daughters begin bickering with their father over inheritances and favoritism. Cadence's father has moved out, her aunts are having relationship problems, and the "littles" (the younger Sinclairs) are almost a non-issue. Then tragedy strikes: Cadence suffers a traumatic head injury and develops severe migraines, disrupting her sixteenth summer plans and keeping her away from the other Liars. But there's more to it than that...or is there?
This book is a mystery, a coming of age story, and a soap opera wrapped up in relatively spare storytelling. Cadence is an unreliable narrator, but it's obvious that there are much larger issues going on than wealthy family troubles. If no one seems sympathetic, they are still absolutely compelling. I kept turning the pages because I had to know what happened; I felt fairly certain I had figured out what was going on and yet there was a driving need to know precisely why and how it happened. It's not a particularly pretty story, or even a story that's beautifully written. What it is is a story that leads you down a path you know is destructive and yet you keep going. I'm going to be thinking about this one for a very long time to come.