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While we love discovering and sharing lesser-known books in our recommendations, we also try to stay in tune with the most popular books each year. We both missed reading We Were Liars by E. Lockhart when it was new, but it caught our attention because the prequel, Family of Liars, was just released.
Both books feature the wealthy Sinclair family, and center on their summers together on a private island compound off the coast of Massachusettes. In We Were Liars, the main character is 17-year-old Cadence, who has debilitating migraines and memory loss after an accident on the island during what she calls “Summer Fifteen.” After being kept away from her cousins for the summer after the accident, the bulk of the book takes place as she finally returns to the island and tries to piece together what happened to her.
This quick read (256 pages) will leave you guessing until the plot twist is finally revealed, and is a great pick for those who enjoy suspenseful family drama. It’s a bit different than anything else we’ve read lately, so we thought it would be fun to put together a list of books like We Were Liars.
While We Were Liars is a Young Adult (YA) book, it’s a good read for non-so-young adults as well. We didn’t limit our search for similar books to just young adult titles, so the list below is broken into two sections – YA books similar to We Were Liars and adult fiction books for fans of We Were Liars.
We’ve tried to steer clear of spoilers while still explaining why these are great books to read after We Were Liars, but if you haven’t read WWL yet, and you want to go in knowing as little as possible, then you might want to bookmark this list for later.
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Books Like We Were Liars
YA Books Similar to We Were Liars
Family of Liars
by E. Lockhart
What to read after We Were Liars? The most obvious answer, of course, is the newly released prequel - Family of Liars.
After the initial book, many readers were left asking why Cadence and her cousins were called “the liars.” As it turns out, the Sinclair family was always filled with liars. This book takes readers to another summer with another generation of the Sinclairs. There’s a fiery, addicted heiress. There’s an irresistible, unpredictable boy. There are more terrible mistakes and more secrets that will haunt the family for decades to come.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
by E. Lockhart
While the main character in We Were Liars was fighting for fair treatment within her family, Frankie Landau-Banks is fighting the patriarchy at her elite boarding school. Between the ages of 14 and 16, she evolves from a quiet, geeky girl to a strong and powerful young woman who may be a bit of a criminal mastermind.
The book follows her outage at her boyfriend’s male-only secret society as she tries to improve the environment for herself and future generations. Reviews often comment that the book is also laugh-out-loud funny.
The Book Girls Say…Since the setting of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is a boarding school, this book has a squarely YA feel. Another E. Lockhart title that readers often compare to We Were Liars is Genuine Fraud.
by Karen McManus
The Story cousins - Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah - barely know each other, and they’ve never met their grandmother. The family matriarch is rich, reclusive, and the owner of a tiny island resort off the coast of Massachusetts. She disinherited their parents before the Story cousins were born, so it’s a shock when they each receive a letter from her inviting them to work at her resort for the summer.
Their parents see the invitations as the perfect opportunity for each cousin to get into their grandmother’s good graces - and to possibly get back into her will. But as soon as they arrive on the island it is clear that she has other plans for them. The cousins will soon discover that there are many dark Story family secrets to be uncovered… and that whatever happened in the past to tear the family apart isn’t over yet.
The Book Girls Say… The premise of cousins spending the summer on their wealthy grandmother’s island immediately gave us We Were Liars vibes. Add in the family secrets, intrigue, and suspense, and we think you’ll be hooked. While We Were Liars delivers its shocking revelation late in the book, The Cousins reveals a shocking twist much earlier in the book, which some readers may find very satisfying.
The popular book One of Us is Lying by the same author, as well as her upcoming release, Nothing More to Tell (publication date August 30, 2022), also sounds like perfect books for fans of We Were Liars.
The Inheritance Games
by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Avery is an orphan with a pretty simple plan for her future - work hard in high school, earn a scholarship, and leave behind the life she knows for something better. Everything changes in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves his fortune to Avery. But why? They’ve never even met.
Stranger still, his will sets out a series of requirements that Avery must meet. First on the list, she must move into the sprawling Hawthorne House for at least one year, and she must allow Tobias’s disinherited family, including his four grandsons, to live there with her.
The Hawthorne House is filled with secret passages and reflects Tobias’s love of puzzles and codes. The grandsons who live there are brilliant - but are they also dangerous? They’ve grown up expecting that they would be the ones to inherit their grandfather’s billions, so they regard Avery with suspicion and disdain. Is Avery their grandfather’s last riddle to be solved? Avery will have to play the game herself to survive.
The Book Girls Say… When we read a review that described this book as part The Westing Game and part We Were Liars - we were completely sold! This book is also perfect for fans of the 2019 mystery film, Knives Out.
The Inheritance Games is the first in a trilogy. The follow-up titles are The Hawthorne Legacy and The Final Gambit.
Remember Me Gone
by Stacy Stokes
This YA thriller has a fantasy edge. Lucy’s father has the unique ability to erase bad memories. People come from him to heal their heartaches. Now that she is 16, she’s looking forward to following in his footsteps. However, as she practices taking memories from her father, she unexpectedly sees her mother on the day she died.
The next morning, Lucy wakes up with memories of her own missing. She teams up with a local boy, Marco, to try to fill in the gaps in their missing memories. There are more secrets in their town than they ever realized.
The Summer We Forgot
by Caroline George
Darby and Morgan were part of a close friend group, but haven’t spoken since summer camp two years ago. However, they reconnect after the body of their teacher is found on the campgrounds. Soon, they realize everyone’s memories of that summer are hazy at best.
They have to remember what really happened before tragedy strikes again. But, can they really trust each other? And even scarier, can they trust themselves?
The Book Girls Say… If you’re looking for a clean read, this is a great option!
I'll Never Tell
by Abigail Haas
When Anna heads to Aruba with her boyfriend, Tate, and best friend, Elise, she has no idea how much her life is about to change. Instead of a fun vacation, she finds herself accused of murdering Elise.
She’s left mourning her friend and trying to investigate what really happened before she’s convicted by the judge the same way she’s already been convicted by public opinion. As the truth is revealed, it’s even more shocking than anyone expected.
The Book Girls Say... This book was originally published under the title Dangerous Girls. It's a "ripped-from-the-headlines thriller" inspired by the Amanda Knox and Natalee Holloway cases.
With Malice by Eileen Cook is also inspired by the Amanda Knox trial. Although With Malice is a commonly recommended book for fans of We Were Liars because it also includes an amnesia storyline, its reviews skew quite a bit lower than I'll Never Tell.
Adult Fiction Books for Fans of We Were Liars
The Night Swim
by Megan Goldin
True crime podcaster Rachel has become someone that families turn to as a last hope when the authorities haven’t been able to solve their case. Her latest season is focused on a rape trial in a small town, where the town’s star athlete has been accused of attacking the police chief’s granddaughter.
As Rachel heads to the town to conduct her own investigation, a mysterious note appears on her windshield begging for help with something that happened 25 years earlier. A young girl, Jenny, reportedly drown, but the person leaving the notes insists that she was murdered. As more notes appear, Rachel is unsettled but also intrigued as the past and present of this small town begin to collide.
The Book Girls Say… If you love the suspenseful aspect of trying to decide what really happened to Cadence the night she was injured in the water, The Night Swim will be right up your alley!
This book is a bit scarier and more intense at times, but still in a suspenseful way. However, you’ll want to avoid it if the topic of sexual assault is triggering or not age-appropriate.
Love and Other Words
by Christina Lauren
Macy Sorensen and Elliot Petropoulos grew up spending long weekends and summers together as the best of friends. As they got older, their shared love of books and words developed into something more.
The book is told in a split timeline as you watch their relationship develop as teens, but then also see Macy as an adult, working on her pediatrics residency. She’s engaged to someone else when she unexpectedly runs into Elliot at a coffee shop. Seeing him again throws everything into question.
Something happened in the past to tear them apart, but when they see each other again, the chemistry is as strong. They must come to terms with both the past and the present.
The Book Girls Say… We read We Were Liars shortly after finishing Love and Other Words, and the summer relationship between Cadence and Gat reminded us of Macy and Elliot throughout. Both started as friendships that slowly evolved into more, both were relationships built during vacation times spent together with little contact in between, and both were ultimately torn apart by tragic circumstances. Just like We Were Liars, we didn’t see the end coming!
This book is classified as adult fiction, but it alternates between past and present and has a pretty heavy dose of teenage angst. We’d rate this book somewhere in between a PG-13 and R - it doesn’t have a lot of steam, but there are a few short scenes that stop us from classifying it as a “clean read.”
by Kimberly McCreight
Kate is in the middle of an important meeting when she gets a call that her fifteen-year-old daughter has been caught cheating at her exclusive private school. When she arrives to pick Amelia up, the school is surrounded by emergency vehicles and Kate learns that her daughter jumped to her death. At least that's what she believes until an anonymous text tells her that Amelia didn't jump. And thus begins this mystery novel with many twists and turns.
The Book Girls Say… Like Cadence, who is trying to map out the events of Summer Fifteen, this story centers around Kate’s efforts to reconstruct her daughter’s story. Although this novel is told from the POV of the mother, we see the story through teenage eyes by way of the emails, text messages, and blog posts that Kate pours over as she attempts to piece together her daughter’s final days.
Some readers say that this adult novel reads more like a YA. In addition to reminding us of We Were Liars, this book also has major Gossip Girl vibes.
by Colleen Hoover
Verity Crawford was a bestselling author of a popular series of books, but an injury has left her unable to complete the series. Her husband, Jeremy, hires struggling writer Lowen Ashleigh to complete his wife’s unfinished books.
Lowen begins sifting through years of Verity’s notes and outlines hoping to find enough material to work with. In the process, she uncovers Verity’s unfinished autobiography - one she doesn't think Verity intended anyone to read. It’s filled with bone-chilling admissions - including the truth about what really happened the day Verity and Jeremy’s daughter died.
Lowen intends to keep secret her discovery of the autobiography manuscript in order to protect Jeremy. But as their relationship grows more complicated, she begins to reconsider. If Jeremy read Verity’s horrifying truths, could he continue to love his wife? And if not, would that make room for Lowen?
The Book Girls Say… If you’re looking for another book that blurs the lines of reality and with a plot twist at the end to rival We Were Liars, then you’ve found your next read! If, however, you only like books with likable characters, then this may not be the title for you. By the end, you may not like any of them.
While many consider Colleen Hoover to be a YA author, this book is squarely an adult read because of numerous explicit scenes.
Little Fires Everywhere
by Celeste Ng
"All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control."
This book begins with the Richardson's family home burning to the ground. Everyone suspects Izzy - the youngest of the Richardsons' 4 high school-aged children. She has disappeared.
The story then picks up 11 months earlier in the Richardsons' idyllic Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights. They live a comfortable and privileged life, and Elena, the mother, believes strongly in the value of playing by the rules.
But the Richardsons' neat and tidy life is upended by the arrival of Mia Warren - an eccentric artist - and her teenaged daughter, Pearl. They rent a house from the Richardsons, but soon Pearl is more like family - spending every waking moment with the Richardson children.
When a court battle divides the town, Elena and Mia find themselves on opposite sides. Elena is suspicious of Mia's motives, and is determined to dig up the truth about her past. But her obsession will come at an unexpected and devastating cost.
The Book Grils Say... The relationship between the Richardson children and Pearl reminded us of The Liars, especially because no matter how much time Pearl spends with the family, she - like Gat - always remains an outsider.
Similar to We Were Liars, Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, but unlike Liars this book is not a suspense or mystery. Instead, this novel is more of a slow burn, character-driven story filled with complex family dynamics and small-town politics. As a result, this book may not hold as much appeal for young adults, but it's a great pick for adult readers.
Of course, the book is always better - but if you enjoy Little Fires Everywhere, you might want to follow it up by watching the TV series on Hulu. Rumor has it that a Season 2 might be in the works.
The Good Sister
by Sally Hepworth
If you enjoyed the non-graphic suspense of We Were Liars, The Good Sister has a similar page-turning vibe. It has alternating narration between 28-year-old twin sisters, Fern and Rose. Fern thrives on routine and must avoid crowds and noise. She does all she can to avoid getting upset because that has led to tragedy in the past.
Rose is her rock and has acted as caretaker for Fern their entire lives. So when Fern finds out Rose can’t have a baby, she decides to get pregnant and give Rose her baby to pay her back. In her mind, this is a straightforward idea. But the plan ends up revealing layers of dark secrets along the way.
The Book Girls Say… While Rose’s condition is much different from Cadence's, they both struggle with those around them being overprotective after a mysterious event in the water during childhood.
The narration of The Good Sister is excellent if you enjoy audiobooks!
The topics in this twisted family drama may appeal more to adult readers rather than teens. There is some light sexual content/situations.
Apples Never Fall
by Liane Moriarty
The Delaney siblings grew up at their family's famous tennis academy, but as adults, they've moved on from the game and are just as successful off the court. Their parents, Stan and Joy, sold the academy to begin retirement, so life should be good...
When Joy goes missing, two of their children suspect their father is involved while the other two believe he is innocent. Things grow even more complicated with the arrival of a stranger named Savannah. As family secrets are unraveled, which side will you believe?
The Book Girls Say… While the Delaney family doesn’t have the same level of wealth as the Sinclair family in We Were Liars, their privilege - and how it feels to be on the outside of that privilege - definitely plays a large role in the story as it unfolds. Additionally, each time Cadence played tennis with the Liars, we found ourselves thinking back to the Delaney family.
This adult fiction is a mix of light suspense and domestic drama. This pick may not appeal as much to teenage fans of We Were Liars, but we think adult readers will enjoy the complex family dynamics. We both felt this book dragged a bit in the middle, but we loved the way it came together!
by Emily Brontë
Throughout We Were Liars, Gat refers to himself as Heathcliff, and to Cadance as Catherine - so of course, we had to add Wuthering Heights to our book list!
Set in the English countryside, Wuthering Heights is a complex 19th-century novel about two families. We thought the best way to summarize the book for you would be to use E. Lockhart's own words. In a 2016 interview, she revealed that she added the references to Wuthering Heights fairly late in the process of writing We Were Liars.
She describes Wuthering Heights as "full of romance and ghosts and family feuds and a huge amount of anger." And she summarizes the story as follows: "A boy of colour – Heathcliff, a “gypsy” – gets brought up in a wealthy white household. When he grows up, Heathcliff falls in love with the daughter of the family, Catherine. She loves him back but they fight all the time over the disparities in their positions..." (we'll leave out the rest as it gets a bit spoiler-ish).
In We Were Liars, Gat believes that, like Heathcliff, he'll never win the favor of refined society, and that he'll never be seen as good enough for Cadance.
If you've never read this classic, then here is the perfect excuse to finally pick it up.
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