Let me share a secret with you. I'm ashamed to admit, but I'm a total snob when it comes to wealthy characters. I generally find them unlikable, which I know is awful judgy of me. No matter how great John Green says it is, I wanted to barf all the way through The Great Gatsby. Holden Caulfield, the protagonist in The Catcher in the Rye, is a great character despite his upper-class upbringing, but he's had a mental breakdown, which makes him likable in my book. When I was still living at home, my mom used to try to get me to read her favorite romance novels about rich heiresses and their jetsetter friends. NO THANKS. I preferred Alice Walker's The Color Purple (still one of my favorites) about a poor African-American girl growing up in the Deep South during The Depression. Adam Rapp novels about homeless kids are some of my favorite books now. I admire characters who struggle and overcome hardships. I'm bored by characters who are handed everything on a silver platter.
That's why I was surprised by how much I enjoyed E. Lockhart's We Were Liars. It's about seventeen-year-old Cadence whose family owns an island off the coast of Massachusetts. Yes. You read that right. An entire island. They summer there with her grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. One summer her cousin brings along a friend named Gat. Cadence and Gat begin a romance despite her grandfather's disapproval. Gat, Cadence, and her cousins spend as much time away from the grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles as possible since it seems like they're always drinking too much wine and getting into arguments about who's entitled to inherit what.
When she's fifteen, Cadence hits her head while diving into the ocean off the rocky coast. Two years pass, and she returns to the family's island for summer break, but everyone's acting weird and she's still suffering from amnesia and anxiety from the accident. Slowly, as summer draws to a close, Cadence begins to piece together what happened that summer two years ago that changed everything.
This is a suspenseful story that manages to also be deeply meaningful. It's changed my mind about wealthy characters. All the money in the world can't assuage the anxiety that comes from living with dark family secrets. Cadence is a sympathetic character in a sticky situation despite the silver platter she inherited at birth.