Cadence Sinclair Eastman, heiress to a fortune her grandfather amassed “doing business I never bothered to understand,” is the highly unreliable narrator of this searing story from National Book Award finalist Lockhart (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks), which begins during her 15th summer when she suffers a head injury on the private island Granddad owns off Cape Cod. Cady vacations on Beechwood every year with her mother, two aunts, and—most importantly—the other liars of the title: cousins Mirren and Johnny, and Gat Patil, the nephew of Aunt Carrie’s longtime boyfriend. The book unfolds two summers later, with Cadence trying to piece together the memories she lost after the accident while up against crippling headaches, a brain that feels “broken in countless medically diagnosed ways,” and family members who refuse to speak on the subject (or have been cautioned not to).
Lockhart’s gimlet-eyed depiction of Yankee privilege is astute; the Sinclairs are bigoted “old-money Democrats” who prize height, blonde hair, athleticism, and possessions above all else. There’s enough of a King Lear dynamic going on between Granddad and his three avaricious daughters to distract readers from Lockhart’s deft foreshadowing of the novel’s principal tragedy, and even that may be saying too much. Lockhart has created a mystery with an ending most readers won’t see coming, one so horrific it will prompt some to return immediately to page one to figure out how they missed it. At the center of it is a girl who learns the hardest way of all what family means, and what it means to lose the one that really mattered to you. Ages 12–up. Agent: Elizabeth Kaplan, Elizabeth Kaplan Literary Agency.(May)