We Were Liars

We Were Liars Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on E. Lockhart's We Were Liars. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of E. Lockhart

E. Lockhart (or Emily Lockhart) is the penname of Emily Jenkins, born in New York City in 1967. Her father, Len Jenkin, is a novelist, playwright, director, and screenwriter. He and Emily lived briefly in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and then settled in Seattle, Washington. Emily attended the Lakeside School, a prestigious private high school in the city, and spent her summers attending drama camps throughout the Midwest. She went to Vassar College for her undergraduate degree, later going on to earn a Ph.D. in English Literature from Columbia University. She has written children’s books, young adult and adult fiction, and she currently teaches creative writing at Hamline University in Minnesota.
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Historical Context of We Were Liars

The novel is set in modern-day New England, as the members of the Sinclair family are sprinkled around the area, and they all converge on an island off the coast of Massachusetts. There are references to old New England families and their wealth, as well as the fact that Harris Sinclair, like many wealthy Democrats, voted for Barack Obama in both presidential elections. The Sinclair family saga reflects certain socioeconomic trends in American culture, including the sense that the old New England aristocracy is in decline, and that people of color are penetrating in the American upper class.

Other Books Related to We Were Liars

In 2015, We Were Liars made the American Library Association’s top ten list of Best Fiction for Young Adults. Many of the other books on this list touch on issues of family and deception, including The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, The Gospel of Winter, by Brendan Kiely, and Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun. Other winners include The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, and Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina; like We Were Liars, these young adult novels portray adolescents coming of age and learning about the world through their experiences of tragic events.
Key Facts about We Were Liars
  • Full Title: We Were Liars
  • When Written: 2014
  • Where Written: New York City
  • When Published: 2014
  • Literary Period: Contemporary American
  • Genre: Young Adult Fiction
  • Setting: Beechwood, a fictional island near Martha’s Vineyard
  • Climax: The Liars burn down Clairmont, the main house on the island.
  • Antagonist: Harris Sinclair
  • Point of View: First person

Extra Credit for We Were Liars

A Family Affair. An interest in writing and literature runs in Lockhart’s family: her father, Len, also has a Ph.D. from Columbia University, though his is in American literature, and hers is in English literature. The father and daughter even co-wrote the children’s book The Secret Life of Billie’s Uncle Myron.

You Don’t Know Me. Lockhart’s website includes a section titled “Twenty-One Things You Don’t Know About Me, Even If You’ve Read Through This Whole Website.” This list includes tidbits about her life such as the fact that Lockhart was her maternal grandmother’s maiden name, that she wrote two novels in the third grade, and that she is a fan of both rollercoasters and wax museums.