This book has the happiest ending of any book I’ve ever read.
(Okay–that’s a lie. But the flap copy instructs that if asked how it ends, the reader should lie.)
Cady’s wealthy family reunites every summer on their private island, where she spends most of her time with her cousins Johnny and Mirren and with Gat, the boy she has always loved (a group Cady refers to as the Liars).
Fast forward two years later to when something has happened to Cady. Something has happened, and we don’t really know what, and Cady doesn’t even really know what. She can’t remember, and no one is willing to talk about what happened that summer. So while she feels broken, headachy, and just not herself, at least she is back on the island for the summer with her gang of Liars. The story jumps around in time, revealing bits of their summers together, snapshots of what their lives are like. Cady is not really reliable–she has amnesia, after all–and the answers to what happened are very slow to come. Together, the little group tries to overcome family drama and rivalries, eventually pretty much cutting themselves off entirely from the rest of the family on the island.
This is the kind of book where it’s really best for a review to say almost nothing at all. If you haven’t already had plot spoiled for you, don’t go reading any reviews. Just read the book. It was beautiful and painful in all the best ways. I wish I had known nothing about this book going in–because even though I had avoided any real spoilers, just to know you’re looking for something sometimes makes things reveal themselves faster than they would if you were truly going into a read with no expectations at all. Were there things I found insufferable about it? Sure. Do I think it’s Lockhart’s best work? No. I’m a huge fan of all of her books, and while this is a very smart, very well-crafted book, it doesn’t stand up to my appreciation of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks or the Ruby Oliver quartet. That said, it’s absolutely worth reading, particularly if you enjoy unreliable narrators and non-linear stories.