Round Two: Lying and Cursing

I was given the difficult task of choosing between We Were Liars and Winner’s Curse. Because I gave five stars to both of these books after I read them the first time, deciding between the two involved rereading and reevaluating the reasons why I loved them so.we were liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is about Cady, her affluent privileged family, and a mystery surrounding her sudden illness. Liars is narrated by Cady, an unreliable character, and this sets the mysterious tone. Her family is all about appearances and although Cady doesn’t share this philosophy, she suffers it until she meets Gat. Gat isn’t just a handsome, charming Indian boy; he’s the antithesis of the Sinclairs and what Cady wants to be. In the process, she develops a crush. Her desire to impress him causes her to suffer fools and to make a life-changing mistake. The Sinclair family is reinterpreted by way of King Lear through short fairy tales and these tales cause Cady to see her family for what they are-three women manipulated by their father. We see Cady grow through these stories and by the end of the novel, she no longer “suffers fools,” in other words, become angry with stupid people.

Liars has lovely characters that all contributed to the story. Although it’s been done before, weaving King Lear and Wuthering Heights into the novel provided an alternative way of telling a story about love, family, and friendship. Given that most teenagers reading this novel don’t have their own island, the desire to be different from one’s family and to be loved for who you are, is relatable.

Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is about Kestrel, a seventeen year old Valorian, who’s the daughter of the general. In a land where you are either in the military or married, Kestrel must find a way to achieve happiness with her inevitable decision but her life becomes derailed when she buys a Herrani slave.

Let me begin by saying that Kestrel is a badass and by far one of the best heroines I’ve read in a long time. Since the invention of Katniss, female protagonists in YA fiction are all great fighters or fast runners or the chosen one with all the good magic. What happened to the Hermiones? To the girls who use their brain to outwit their opponents? That girl has returned and her name is Kestrel Trajan. Although Kestrel is the daughter of a general and receives combat lessons on the regular, she is not a good fighter or does she pretends to be. She is a strategist. Throughout the novel, Kestrel’s father possesses strong philosophies of war and weakness and winning. Kestrel listens intently and manages to use other people’s weakness to defeat them. She outwits her father, the leader of the Herrani revolution, and the emperor. Winner’s Curse is a love story that takes its time to build a world of powerful empires and forbidden love.winner's curse

Verdict: Both novels are beautifully written and have powerful themes. Liars is very black and white. It’s about a girl who doesn’t like her family and manipulative granddad and makes a horrible mistake-that’s it. After the tragedy, the family doesn’t change. They relish in their new celebrity status. Cady says she’s changed because she no longer “suffers fools” but because the story ends so abruptly, we don’t know if she truly changed. Does she do charity work? Does she go to college and become a different person than her family? We don’t know. Liars is a great story but there are no other themes or lessons other than there are consequences to your actions-very black and white.

Winner’s Curse however contains many gray areas. It’s not just a love story but about a girl who struggles with her duty to her people and her father or helping the slaves and the man she loves. It’s not just about war but about defeating your opponents through their weaknesses-love, gossip, and pride. It’s about the choices one makes to let a loved one go and the sacrifice of oneself for the greater good. Winner’s is slow and purposeful and exciting.

Although We Were Liars is a literary novel and deemed “good literature” and Winner’s Curse is a fantasy, Winner’s Curse possesses more themes and life lessons.

Winner: The Winner’s Curse


Round one: The Young Elites vs. We Were Liars — Two Tales of Power and Falsehood

In this corner: Marie Lu’s The Young Elites, a paranormal adventure detailing the rise of Adelina Amouteru. Adelina survived a deadly illness that left her with strange markings, supernatural powers, and societal scorn. After leaving her cruel father in the dust, she joins the secret society of the Young Elites and begins to develop her ability to create illusions — an ability strengthened byyoung elites fear and fury.

And in this corner: E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, a realistic mystery in which Cadence Sinclair Easton struggles to piece together what happened during her fifteenth summer. During summers spent on her family’s private island off the coast of Massachusetts, Cadence and her cousins and their dear friend have been inseparable. Now, Cadence suffers from amnesia and migraines after a mysterious accident and struggles to understand the changes around her.

The title of each book could almost describe the other. Two different visions of privilege play out, with We Were Liars centering on old money as a source of power and The Young Elites on unnatural abilities. Both books place our protagonists in tiny and select groups. Adelina’s lies rival those of Cadence — she doesn’t just lie to everyone around her, she creates illusions that twist their very perceptions of what is real. Meanwhile, Cadence is a highly unreliable narrator who has covered over unpleasant events in the past with such skill that she literally can’t remember them. When I set out to compare these titles, I wasn’t sure I could juxtapose such vastly different genres. But once I started, I found parallels everywhere I looked.

Our protagonists have strong and complex ties to difficult relatives. Although the Sinclairs are far more affectionate than the Amouterus, a quest for powwe were liarser drives a wedge between generations and spurs destructive behavior in both families. Cadence’s mother and her two sisters vie for their father’s love and money. In sharp contrast, Cadence loves her cousins and friend with abandon. Adelina’s father abuses her and eventually drives her to lash out at him, while her feelings toward her sister swing between love, hate, jealousy, and protectiveness. Both young women feel incredibly lonely, and indeed they are alone even when they’re surrounded by people who want to include them.

Adelina and Cadence have deep literal and psychological wounds and are haunted by ghosts of the past. They make bad decisions, and bad things happen to those they love. As I read The Young Elites, which drips with descriptions of Adelina’s dark and difficult character, I wondered how she would redeem herself. When I finished We Were Liars, I wondered if redemption was possible.

In the end, the biggest difference lies in the writing style. Lyrical and lovely, We Were Liars includes lines like, “There is not even a Scrabble word for how bad I feel.” Adelina’s emotions may be complex, but their expression generally isn’t: “I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside. It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.” I predict that Lu’s book will make more money than Lockhart’s, especially if the rest of the series lives up to the intriguing characters and plot introduced in the first book. But Lockhart’s novel still haunts me months after I initially read it.

Winner: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart