This is one of those times where things are complicated. First, the book was good, but that doesn’t mean I like it. Second, the ending ruined everything.
I try not to deliver spoilers in my reviews anyway, but in this case the enjoyment of the book is almost entirely based on knowing absolutely nothing going in, so I will say absolutely nothing about it. At least, not without using spoiler warnings. (See below.) I had no idea what to rate this after I was finished. As mentioned previously, E. Lockhart is a good writer, in the sense that she has a firm grasp on the English language and knows how to use it to get a desired result from her audience after stringing words together in a specific order, for a specific purpose. Probably her style is not for everyone (most of it wasn’t for me), but you can’t say she doesn’t have a firm grip on her shit.
Leaving aside the ending, my issues are two. First, stories about rich kids and their rich kid problems in their insulated little worlds (the very definition of what’s going on here) are just very uninteresting to me. I know part of the book hinged on me feeling that way, and the character of Gat is designed specifically as a foil for that very reason, but that doesn’t mean I liked it anymore when I had to read about it. Second, that style. The pseudo poetry was effective, but it grated on me. The first person narrator also grated on me, particularly because she was obviously an unreliable narrator from the start, and SPOILER I hate being tricked in fiction, especially when it’s the sole purpose of the book to do so. END SPOILER.
And with that little segue, let’s talk about the ending.
SPOILER Cadence (ugh with that name) spends the whole book trying to remember the traumatic thing that happened to her on their family island when she was fifteen. Near the end you learn that she and her two cousins and her sort of boyfriend Gat decided to set fire to the main house to teach the elders a lesson about what really matters (hint: not money or who gets what house when the parentals croak), but things went wrong, and she learns that the fire killed her two family dogs. This is very traumatic for her, and if the book had stopped at that, I would have probably ended up liking it more, but then it went too far.
We find out that not only did the dogs die, but so did her two cousins and Gat (all three are her best friends). Her mind hasn’t allowed her to remember this, and she in fact has been hallucinating them the entire summer. This would have been sort of cool, actually, except it’s not original in the slightest. The Sixth Sense and A Beautiful Mind are just two examples I can think of right away where this trope has been used. And the way it ends leaves you to believe that was the whole point. So if you don’t like the twist, which I don’t, you’re pretty much left with not liking the whole book END SPOILER.
I will definitely be checking out E. Lockhart’s other books, because she seems like a good writer. This just wasn’t my story.