We Were Liars Book Summary - We Were Liars Book explained in key points
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We Were Liars summary

E. Lockhart

A Suspense Novel About Family, Lies, and the Mistakes That Haunt Us

(5 ratings)
20 mins
5 key ideas
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What is We Were Liars about?

We Were Liars (2014) is the suspenseful story of the wealthy, carefree Sinclair family and the tragic event that exposes the cracks in their perfect facade – as told by an unreliable narrator, Cadence Sinclair.

About the Author

E. Lockhart is the author of numerous best-selling books for young readers, ranging from picture books to young adult novels. She’s best known for the We Were Liars duology, the Ruby Oliver quartet, and stand-alone novel The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.

Table of Contents

    We Were Liars
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    In the Sinclair family, not everything is as it seems.

    Meet the Sinclairs. Old money. East coast. White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant as anything. 

    Harris Sinclair is the gruff, business-minded patriarch; Tipper, his wife, is just as charming in her 80s as when she was a debutante. Their three girls, Carrie, Bessie, and Penny (all divorced, but no one talks about that) have a gaggle of children between them. All three generations of Sinclairs are tall, blonde, sporty, high achieving, charming – in short, they’re the perfect family.

    Perfect, that is, if you ignore the aforementioned divorces, Harris’s boiling temper, Tipper’s fragile health, the increasing tensions among Harris’s daughters about how his estate will eventually be parceled out, and the growing unease of the “Liars” – the name given to themselves by the three eldest grandchildren, along with their friend Gat – with the SInclairs’ patterns of behavior and way of life.

    The Sinclairs are very good at ignoring these things. As Penny, Cadence’s mother, puts it: “Silence is a protective coating over pain.”

    Gat, however, isn’t in the habit of ignoring uncomfortable truths. Gat is the nephew of Ed, Carrie’s boyfriend. Ed is Indian, and Harris Sinclair has made no bones about the fact he disapproves of his daughter dating someone who isn’t white. As an Indian teenage boy from a working-class background, Gat is emphatically an outsider. The most intellectually curious of the Liars, he feels shut off from the glittering academic, professional, and social opportunities that await Cadence, Johnny, and Mirren. He’s sometimes appalled by the Sinclairs’ blatant displays of wealth and privilege. And he doesn’t – or won’t – understand the polite rules that govern all the Sinclairs’ interactions. He brings up politics at the dinner table. He talks about things the rest of the family would prefer to keep hush-hush – like divorce and death. Most unforgivable of all? Gat falls in love with Cadence, and she falls in love with him.

    Harris loves all his grandchildren but Cady is his golden child. She’s the eldest of the grandchildren. She will, as he frequently reminds her, stand to inherit the bulk of the Sinclair fortune. Her feelings for Gat jeopardize all of this. What’s more, she doesn’t care.


    The story of the Sinclair family is ultimately a story about inheritance and legacy. The Sinclairs are extremely wealthy and the older generations of Sinclairs are preoccupied with safeguarding this accumulation of wealth, assets, and valuable objects. As Cadence puts it, the philosophy of her mother, aunts, and grandparents seems to be: “whoever dies with the most stuff wins.” 

    But while the older Sinclairs see their estate and inheritance in material terms, the story is really about what else is handed down from generation to generation: the beliefs, behaviors, and secrets that can be safeguarded within the family unit and passed down generational lines.

    So what is the real Sinclair legacy? The Sinclairs place self-interest ahead of kindness; they guard their wealth rather than sharing it; they’re more concerned with maintaining a fairy-tale facade in public than addressing private pain and trauma.

    But there’s more to the fairy-tale Sinclairs than their painstakingly crafted image of a close-knit, high-achieving, and perfectly functional family. In fact, at interludes throughout the book Cadence writes fairy-tale versions of her family’s story, featuring a King and his three beautiful daughters. The endings of these tales turn increasingly bitter and violent.

    Cadence knows her relationship with Gat might see her disinherited. But the more she learns of the real Sinclair family legacy, the less she wants any part of it.

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    Who should read We Were Liars

    • Lovers of suspenseful fiction and well-crafted romance
    • Anyone keen for a glimpse into the lives of the 1 percent
    • Avid readers who want the scoop on one of the best-loved young adult contemporary novels

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