Lockhart’s new book is the prequel to her wildly popular We Were Liars and takes place decades earlier. Although it contains a few spoilers for We Were Liars, it is thoroughly entertaining and may engage both readers who are new to the Sinclair family, or readers who want to dive back into their family dynamics.
The Sinclair family dynamics involve pride, refinement, old and dirty money, tough-love, and the tendency to repress emotion after tragedy. We see this cause tension when the narrator, Carrie, is struggling with a recent death; she detests how everyone acts like they have already forgotten what happened. Thus begins her summer: alone with her pain and moving back for the next few months to the island her father and uncle own, which is also the location of the loved one’s drowning. However, despite her ideas of how the summer will proceed, the usual routine is disrupted when her cousin brings along a few boys that are Carrie’s age.
The novel has a satisfyingly dark ambiance and would be a good recommendation for students who enjoy plot twists and unreliable narrators. It is important to bear in mind while recommending it that the story contains one short mention of self-harm, a character with a narcotics addiction, and the death of a sibling.
Breaking away from the tougher subjects, I also believe that as someone who is not normally drawn to suspense-filled books, there are a multitude of themes within Family of Liars to engage many readers. For example, as a foodie I appreciated the author’s descriptions of flavours, scents, and textures. Lockhart makes one nostalgic for food memories that are not even one’s own. Moreover, tiny bits of poetry often end the chapters. This would be appreciated by students who love poetry or a nice little dose for more reluctant poetry readers, as it does not disrupt the overall flow of the novel and is used fairly sparingly but with great effect.
Finally, if there are any readers that are particularly fond of the recent Netflix series The Summer I Turned Pretty, based on the books by Jenny Han, this would be the perfect story to continue them on their reading journeys. There are gorgeous, grey-shingled houses, Fourth of July celebrations, and a Massachusetts beachy-feel, not to mention an overflow of romantic tension.
Chanelle Coates is a B.Ed student at the University of New Brunswick who loves reading, writing, and talking about both.