Review of Family of Liars

Family of Liars Family of Liars
by E. Lockhart
High School    Delacorte    320 pp.    g
5/22    978-0-593-48585-9    $19.99
Library ed.  978-0-593-48586-6    $22.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-48587-3    $10.99

This formidable prequel to We Were Liars (rev. 5/14), focusing on the wealthy Sinclair family a generation before that novel’s events, opens with a harsh truth, and a spoiler. Johnny, one of the cousins of the first book’s protagonist, appears as a ghost to his mother, narrator Carrie, on the family’s private island. With the promise to tell him “the worst thing [she] ever did” as a framing device, Carrie flashes back to reveal many of the dark secrets and lies she had helped to perpetuate over the years. In 1987 on the island, seventeen-year-old Carrie is deeply saddened about the drowning death of her youngest sister (the first ghost to appear to her); recovering from the surgery on which her father has insisted to correct her jawline; and beginning a protracted dependence on painkillers and sedatives. Carrie is swept off her feet by Pfeff, a charming, impulsive cad who betrays her in what she feels is the worst possible way. The violent consequences entail a massive cover-up that requires full utilization of the Sinclairs’ good standing, privilege, and cunning. The engrossing narration, full of fairy-tale references and family mottos (“Never complain, never explain”), is neither reliable nor neatly wrapped up, but the novel is uncomfortably thought-provoking. The story (understandable on its own but richer when read after We Were Liars) asks readers to consider hard questions and is impossible to put down.

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Luann Toth
Luann Toth

Luann Toth is a former reviews editor at School Library Journal. She holds an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh.

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