One paragraph version: Cadence Sinclair comes from a family of wealthy and beautiful people. They spend their summers on their private island. The summer she is 15, she has an accident that leaves her with a brain injury, with migraines and gaps in her memory. Two years later, she returns to the private island determined to figure out what happened that summer. She slowly recalls her bits pieces of fights between her mother and aunts over inheritances and assets, fueled by her grandfather pitting them against one another. Finally, in the end, Cadence remembers that she and the other teenage grandchildren had decided to burn down their grandfather's house when it was empty in anger over being dragged into their parents' fights over money. However, it went poorly and the other teens died in the fire. The migraines and memory loss were a result of her guilt and inability to face the truth.
In Part I, the book introduces Cadence Sinclair, who is the eldest granddaughter in the wealthy and beautiful Sinclair family. Everyone in the Sinclair family is blond and athletic, and their patriarch is Cadence's grandfather Harris, who is the one who made the family fortune that they all live off of.
The Sinclair family spends each summer on Beechwood Island, a small private island where Harris has built four summer homes, one for him and his wife Tipper and other three for each of their three daughters (Penny, Bess and Cassie).
There are two other grandchildren who are Cadence's age -- Johnny and Mirren. Johnny's mother also dates an man named Ed, whose nephew Gat Patil is their age as well. Together, these four (Cadence, Johnny, Mirren and Gat) hang out together during the summer and have been nicknamed the Liars by the family.
The summer the Liars are all 14 ("summer 14"), Cadence and Gat starts developing feelings for each other. The following year, Tipper passes away and Cadence's parents divorce. When Cadence returns to the island the next summer ("summer 15"), Gat has a girlfriend back home. Still, Cadence and Gat continue to flirt and occasionally kiss.
That summer, Cadence has a swimming accident resulting an un-diagnosable brain injury, which causes her to have gaps in her memory and gives her migraines afterwards. She stops hearing from Gat. The following year, she flunks her classes, dyes her hair black, loses her friends and drops all her school activities. The next summer, summer 16, Cadence goes to Europe with her father, and she's hurt that she doesn't hear from the other Liars at all.
In Part II, that year, Cadence embarks on a project of giving away all her stuff, since she wants to be less materialistic. Cadence also insists on going back to Beechwood for summer 17, and her mother arranges for her to go to the island for four weeks.
In Part III, Cadence arrives at Beechwood determined to figure out what happened during summer 15. However, everyone says that the doctors want her to recall it on her own. As she recalls bits and pieces, she remembers her mother and her siblings fighting over their inheritances and Granddad's assets, though they seem to be getting along well in present day. Cadence also notices how her Granddad's house has now been remodeled and is missing all of Tipper's old things.
In Part IV, Cadence finally recalls that there was a fire during summer 15. The Liars had set it on purpose. During summer 15, without Tipper to keep them at bay, their mothers' fighting had gotten much worse, spurred on by Granddad them against each other in order to regain his sense of control. In turn, their mothers started demanding that the kids get involved in their fight as well. Granddad had also become hostile toward Gat once he saw that Gat and Cadence were involved.
The Liars had gotten the idea to burn down Granddad's house when everyone was gone in order to destroy what they viewed as a "symbol" of everything that was wrong in their family (this is why all Tipper's things are gone now). Upon remembering all this, Cadence initially feels triumphant, thinking that their plan worked since their mothers aren't fighting anymore. H
In Part V, Cadence finally remembers the last bit, that not only did Granddad's dogs died in the fire, so did the rest of the Liars. Johnny, Mirren and Gat weren't able to get out of the house in time after Cadence lit the first match. Instead, only Cadence was able to get out. The book ends with Cadence finally facing her guilt and knowing that she will endure.
The book opens by introducing the Sinclair family, all beautiful, blond, athletic, old-money Democrats. In the summertime, they vacation on Beechwood Island, a private island off the coast of Massachusetts. Privately, their trust funds are running out, and they struggle with divorces and pills.
Cadence “Cady” Sinclair Eastman, 18, lives with her mother, Penny Sinclair, in Burlington, Vermont in a grand house with their three dogs. Her father fell in love with another woman and decided to leave them when Cadence was 15. (She describes it as being “shot” by him because she uses dramatic imagery to describe her feelings.) Cadence also had an accident around that time that caused her to be weaker and get migraines. Her hair is dyed black now.
Penny, Carrie and Bess are the daughters of Tipper and Harris Sinclair. Harris had inherited money after he turned 21 and graduated from Harvard, and he grew it into a fortune. Each of the daughters has their own summer home on Beechwood Island (Windemere for Penny, Red Gate for Carrie, and Cuddledown for Bess). Tipper and Harris’s house is Clairmont house.
Bess’s kids are Mirren, Liberty, Taft and Bonnie.
Carrie’s kids are Johnny and Will. Carrie’s husband (William Dennis) left her when she was pregnant with Will and Johnny was around 8 years old. She soon met Ed, an art dealer.
Cadence is the oldest of all the grandchildren, though Johnny is the oldest grandson so he always gets his way. Johnny and Mirren are both similar in age to Cadence, as is Ed’s nephew Gatwick “Gat” Matthew Patil. Gat started joining them for summers on the island when Ed came into the picture (when they were all around 8), and Gat’s father had recently died at that time.
Once Gat showed up, these four (Cadence, Johnny, Mirren and Gat) started to be called “the Liars” by the family, and together they tend to be troublemakers. Cadence calls the younger kids (Will, Taft, Liberty and Bonnie) the “Littles”.
Chapters 5 – 10
One day, during the summer when the Liars are 14 (which Cadence refers to as “summer fourteen“), Gat and Cadence take the small motorboat out for a ride, and Gat tells Cadence that he thinks she’s distractingly pretty. Soon, they start seeking each other out all the time, and Cadence feels something like love for Gat.
The summer the Liars are 15 (or “summer fifteen“), Cadence shows up to the island after a difficult year (the year her father left). She arrives to see Gat holding a rose, and she realizes right there that she loves him. Then, she sees him put it in an envelope to send to someone else, and Cadence is heartbroken.
She soon learns that Gat now has a girlfriend in New York named Raquel. A few days later, as the Liars are hanging out, Gat starts talking about how his trip to India that past winter changed his perspective on things like whether land ownership is moral, and the others dismissively tell him to stop talking. He stalks off angrily, but Cadence follows him. She tells him that she likes that he’s different from the rest of them.
That night, Cadence and Gat sit under the stars alone, holding hands. Gat puts his hunting jacket over her shoulders. The next day, as Gat helps out cleaning out her father’s stuff from the attic, Gat tells Cadence that he loves her, and they kiss. Their kiss is interrupted by her grandfather, who walks in on them.
Eight months prior to summer 15, Granny Tipper had passed away from heart failure. With Granny gone, Cadence goes into her crafts room and cries. Cadence’s mother finds her and tells her to “act normal”, saying that it’ll be easier for her Granddad to see everyone being “strong and merry” and that “silence is a protective coating over pain”.
Cadence does as she’s told, and she thinks about how they’ve always acted like nothing has happened when sad things happen. However, Gat never does, instead he brings things up and then talks about them to Cadence. As summer 15 continues, she and Gat continue their romance, kissing, touching and writing each other love notes.
Chapters 12 – 15
One night in July, Cadence goes swimming alone, hits her head on the rocks and ends up in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury. She’s disappointed when Gat doesn’t check up on her. She’s heartbroken, again, when she realizes it was just a summer fling for him. Additionally, after the accident, she starts getting intense migraines, blacking out with pain. They doctors are unable to find out what’s wrong, so Cadence just takes pain meds.
That year is rough, with Cadence flunking classes, losing friends, and dropping all her sports activities due to the migraines. That following summer, summer 16, Cadence’s father insists on a ten-week trip together through Europe, which means not summering in Beechwood. Cadence writes e-mails to Johnny and Mirren to check in, but they don’t respond. She’s not surprised since checking the internet is inconvenient on the island, and the island “is very much its own world” when you’re there.
Back in Burlington, Cadence is now the sickly daughter who misses a lot of school, though there’s still an air of tragic mystery about her since she’s still a Sinclair.
Part II: Vermont
This section opens with a fairy tale that Cadence has written. It’s about a king deciding which of his three daughters will inherit his kingdom. To decide, he asks them who loves him the most. The youngest has the worst answer and is exiled. She spends years working her way back and proving to the king that her answer was actually the best, which wins her the kingdom.
However, she soon realizes that she’s now stuck caring for her “demented and power-mad” tyrant of a father for the rest of her days. She wonders if she stays because she loves him or because she wants to inherit the kingdom.
Chapters 17 – 18
After Cadence’s trip to Europe, she starts a project giving away something of hers every day. She thinks about how in her family the “accumulation of beautiful objects is a life goal” and she doesn’t want to be like that. Instead, she gives her stuff to people she knows or the homeless or goodwill, including discarding sentimental objects.
Selective amnesia can be a consequence of traumatic brain injury, and Cadence realizes that there’s a lot that she can’t remember from summer 15. Notably, she can’t remember what happened in her accident, either before or after. When she asks her mother, her mother cries saying she Cadence keeps asking her and she keeps telling her, but then Cadence forgets and asks again the next day. Instead, Cadence writes down her mother’s answer (about the swimming injury) and stops asking.
Chapters 19 – 20
For summer 17, Cadence’s father initially plans to take her to Australia and New Zealand. Cadence wants to go to Beechwood instead, but the trip is already paid for.
Soon, Cadence’s grandfather goes to Vermont to visit them. He seems a little disoriented, not recognizing Cadence at first. Still, he talks about how Cadence is his firstborn grandchild and all that entails. After her grandfather leaves, the Australia trip is cancelled. It’s negotiated that Cadence will go to Beechwood for four weeks and then to visit her dad where he lives in Colorado.
(There’s also another fairy tale by Cadence, also about a king with three daughters. This time, a dragon is laying siege to the kingdom. The king promises one of his daughter’s hands in marriage to whomsoever can slay it, but the men are all eaten by the dragon. Then, he sends the daughters one at a time to try to beg for mercy, but they are all eaten as well. Cadence then writes “now, let me ask you this. Who killed the girls? The dragon? Or their father?”)
Chapters 21 – 22
Eventually, Cadence’s room is nearly empty from giving away her stuff. She gives away the travel toothbrush her mother bought for her trip, and she gives away Gat’s hunting jacket that he’d draped over her back in summer 15.
Before leaving for Beechwood, Mirren’s little brother Taft calls. He says that Cuddledown is haunted and wants to stay in Windemere instead. Cadence says it’s not haunted, it’s just the wind, and tells him to get Mirren to read or sing to him before bed.
Part III: Summer Seventeen
Chapters 21 – 26
At Woods Hole, the port town nearby, Aunt Carrie meets them to help them onto the boat to get to Beechwood. Cadence anticipates seeing Gat again. As the island looms in front of them, Cadence sees the new Clairmont house, which was renovated last summer. She cries when she sees that the tree with the tire swing that she loved is gone now, but her mother orders her to act “normal”.
When they arrive, everyone comes to greet them jovially. Her Grandfather mistakenly calls her “Mirren”, and Carrie says that he’s been doing that a lot lately (because he’s mentally declining). They comment on Cadence’s black hair.
Soon, it’s just Cadence with the rest of the Liars. They’re excited to see her and pepper her with questions. Cadence tells them she missed too much school because of her accident and needs to finish high school next year. Mirren now has a boyfriend, Drake Loggerhead, and they’re going to Pomona together. The Liars also say that they’ve decided to no longer attend dinners and breakfasts with the rest of the family for some reason.
When it’s just Cadence and Gat, he says how glad he is to see her, but he doesn’t explain why she never heard from him in all this time. Still, he asks to hold her hand and she lets him.
Chapters 27 – 29
Looking at her room at the Windemere, Cadence plans to give away the stuff in that room as well, though her mother tries to convince her that she might want these things. Still, Cadence insists. Instead, her mother demands that Cadence go to dinner with the rest of the family, even though the rest of the Liars aren’t going and Cadence agrees.
Cadence also starts trying to write down any memories from summer 15 that she’s able to recall. She makes a separate page for the accident itself as she wonders why she chose to go swimming alone or why her brain injury never appeared on any of the scans at the hospitals.
That night, Cadence is supposed to go down for dinner with the family, but her pain is too intense and she’s unable to go. Instead, she takes her pills and waits for the pain to subside. Much later, she goes downstairs to see Carrie taking a walk outside in the middle of the night. Carrie says she has trouble sleeping when Ed’s not around, and she asks if Cadence has seen Johnny around since sometimes he stays up, too. Cadence offers her a flashlight, but Carrie declines the offer.
Chapters 30 – 32
The next morning, Cadence goes to visit her grandfather. She notices his dogs aren’t there, and he tells her they passed away a while ago. Her grandfather also comments that he prefers her hair blond.
Later, Cadence asks Mirren about the Barbie she sent her, a toy they used to fight over, but Mirren says she never got it. Cadence also asks about why Mirren never responded to her e-mails last summer, and Mirren says it feels like homework to reply to e-mails. Cadence tries to explain to Mirren and Johnny why she’d against materialism and giving away her stuff, but they question why she wouldn’t like nice things and things with sentimental value.
When Gat sees Cadence, he hugs her and brings up a meaningful memory of them together that Cadence doesn’t remember. Instead, she brings up again how she never heard from him. Gat then asks to just start over. She’s still mad at him, but she agrees.
Chapters 33 – 36
At lunch at her grandfather’s newly renovated house, Cadence notices how all the sentimental, colorful items are now gone, replaced with the spartan, tasteful aesthetic that the decorator chose. When Cadence comments on all the things that are no longer there, her grandfather gets annoyed. Then, when Cadence asks Carrie about her late-night walk last night, Carrie doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
Afterwards, Cadence asks two of the Littles, Taft and Will, about summer 15. However, Will says that the promised Cadence’s mother that he wouldn’t “talk about you ending up in the water and everything” since it would make her migraines worse (according to Cadence’s mother). Taft also reveals that the other Littles, Bonnie and Liberty, went through her stuff and found her pills. The kids think Cadence is a drug addict and warn her to stay away from drugs.
Johnny seems confused by something Cadence doesn’t remember, Mirren gives him a hard time, reminding him that everyone on the island — including the staff — has been told about Cadence’s memory situation and to let her remember things on her own. When they go play tennis, Cadence tells them about struggling with her migraines during her trip to Europe, Mirren implies that Cadence should stop telling them about it because it sounds “pitiful”.
Chapters 37 – 39
That day, Cadence remembers a conversation from summer 15. She recalls her grandfather talking about remodeling his home in Boston. Of the daughters, Bess is the only one who lives in Boston and the only one with enough kids to fill the rooms. However, all three of them want it anyway because it’s a four-million-dollar property. When grandfather asks Bess to come take a look to see if he should renovate it, the three siblings get snappy with each other when they think it means Bess is might someday be inheriting the house.
Later, Cadence tries to kiss Gat, but he stops her. He tells her that she doesn’t really know him. Instead, she knows one tiny part of him. He also says that it bothers him that everyone on this island is rich and white other than him and the staff. he criticizes Cadence for not knowing the names of any of the staff, and he wonders if she’s interested in getting to know the rest of him at all.
Gat says that her grandfather sees him as Heathcliff (from Wuthering Heights) — a poor outsider who is taken in, and the family sees him as a brutish animal. He says that he betrayed their kindness by seducing Cadence (just as Heathcliff seduced Catherine), and that he became the monster they all thought he was (just like Heathcliff).
Cadence writes another fairy tale-type story. Again, there’s a king with three daughters. When the firstborn grandchild arrives, she’s a girl who is too tiny. The girl is passed aside and forgotten. She learns to love books and one day comes across a mouse who loves books, too, and charms the girl. They fall in love and she tells her family she will marry him. Her family finds him abhorrent, but the girl marries the mouse anyway, they go away and live happily ever after.
Chapters 41 – 42
Her grandfather invites Cadence to go into Edgartown with him, a village in Martha’s Vineyard. They run into Granddad’s estate lawyer, Richard Thatcher. Grandad talks glowingly about Cadence, how she’s his firstborn, and how she has “Sinclair blood through and through”. Afterwards, Granddad tells Cadence that he has “taken good care of you” (implying that she’d be happy with his will) but not to tell her mother because “she’ll stir up trouble again”.
Later, Cadence recalls another memory from summer 15. She recalls Granddad talking about some art and sculptures they had in the house. One of the pieces is a cute goose statue made of ivory. When Cadence brings up that it’s illegal, Grandad says that “you can get it” if you really want.
Cadence thinks about one of his mottos is “don’t take no for an answer”. She used to think it was a “heroic way” to live, but in that moment, she realized it was “the attitude of a privileged guy who didn’t care who got hurt”. Cadence had objected to the ivory statuette, mentioning something Gat had read. However, Granddad had angrily interrupted her, saying that Tipper loved the statutes and that it wasn’t Cadence’s place to tell him what to do with his money.
Chapters 43 – 44
The next day, Mirren and Cadence decide to take the small motorboat to Edgartown while the boys go kayaking. On the boat, Cadence remembers something else from summer 15. She recalls Gat giving her an inscribed book from a novelist she likes that said “For Cady with everything, everything. Gat.”
In present day, Cadence asks Mirren about that summer, though Mirren sees hesitant to answer. Cadence asks about Gat seeming upset with her the other day, and Mirren responds that “he has good reasons to be mad”.
When Cadence returns, her mother gives her a hard time about leaving the island without permission, leaving without adult supervision and operating the motorboat while she’s on medication.
Chapters 45 – 49
Now into her second week at Beechwood, the Liars climb up to the roof of Cuddledown, though it requires going through Bess’s bedroom window. They decide they love it up there and are determined to go every day.
The next few days are a drag since Mirren has a sore throat and feels unwell, so the Liars doesn’t want to go anywhere. Gat is being very platonic towards Cadence and seems to avoid being alone with her. They eat lunch on the roof, but occasionally drop a bottle so there’s shards of glass on the porch and flies that are attracted to the sugar in the drinks.
At the end of the week, Cadence finally asks Johnny directly why he never checked in after her accident. Johnny admits that it’s just cause he’s “an asshole”. Then, Cadence asks Johnny why she never heard from Gat or why he’s unwilling to discuss that summer.
Johnny tells her that Gat felt really guilty for being “shitty” to Raquel (by fooling around with Cadence), so he was angry with himself. Johnny also says he loves Gat like a brother, but he’s a “pretentious ass”.
Afterwards, Cadence decides to give Gat a book of stories that her mother once read to them, inscribed with “For Gat with everything, everything. Cady.” She leaves it on Gat’s pillow.
That night, Gat asks Cadence if she’s seeing anyone, and Cadence responds saying that her “boyfriend is named Percocet”. Gat then says that she says all these things because she wants everyone to feel sorry for her, but she’s lucky in so many ways.
Gat tells Cadence that her grandfather was the one who paid for her eight-week trip to Europe, flying first class and staying in 5-star hotels, noting that it’s not something he’d for any of the other grandchildren. Cadence hadn’t known that he was the one who paid, and she thinks about all the things in her life that were paid for without her knowing from where.
Cadence then acknowledges what she has to be grateful for, but also points out that her migraines are genuinely painful. Afterwards, he holds her and they kiss.
Chapters 50 – 52
Mirren continues to feel unwell and doesn’t want to do anything. One day, as they lounge on the beach, Mirren and Cadence talk about Gat. Mirren admits that the boyfriend she told them about (Drake) is fake and that she’s never had a boyfriend. Mirren also thinks that Cadence and Gat won’t work out, but she also admits that when he saw Cadence again he “looked at you like you were the brightest planet in the galaxy”.
During Cadence’s third week on the island, she’s unable to do much for a few days due to her migraines. She also notices her pills are running low, and she wonders if her mother is taking her pills or if the twins stole some for fun or if she’s just not remembering taking them.
When Cadence finally emerges, she asks the rest of the Liars and asks them what they’ve been up to. They talk about doing a bunch of stuff, but they seem to be making things up, and Cadence wonders why they would lie about that they were doing.
That night, Cadence gets another bad migraine and she awakes to find Gat in her room, looking at the papers she’s using to takes notes of her memories of summer 15.
Gat decides he’s ready to talk about it. He admits to her that he had a girlfriend that summer and that he should have broken things off with her, but he didn’t. He says it was wrong of him, towards both Cadence and Raquel. He admits that he’s always that he’s either full of self-loathing for his own actions or feeling self-righteous and victimized by the world.
Then, they kiss and he tells Cadence that he loves her.
Late that night, Cadence hears Will yelling for his mother after having a nightmare. However, she sees Carrie walking around outside, and Carrie either doesn’t hear him or ignores him because she walks the other way.
Chapters 53 – 56
The next afternoon, the Liars go kayaking, and Mirren soon gets seasick as she often does nowadays. The boys climb some rocks and jump off the high ones into the water, but when Cadence wants to they all tell her not to. Mirren cries, begging her not to. Cadence does it anyway, wanting to prove that she’s as strong as the rest of them.
That night, Cadence recalls another memory, one of Carrie crying, and she asks Mirren about it. Cadence insists that she knows something else must’ve happened in addition to her accident, and she wonders why Mirren never wants to leave Cuddledown to do anything anymore. However, Mirren simply repeats again that the doctors want her to remember things on her own and she blames having a persistent cold for her not wanting to do anything.
The next morning, Cadence sees that a new tire swing is hanging outside the Windemere. Inside, is an envelope with dried roses and the words “for Cady” in Gat’s handwriting.
In another fairy tale, Cadence writes again about the king with three beautiful daughters. When the first one gives birth, it’s celebrated. When the second one gives birth, they celebrate again. Finally, when the last one gives birth, she gives birth to twins, but one turns out to be a mouseling.
There are no celebrations for that birth, and filled with shame, the mother sends the mouseling away. The mouseling goes forth in the world and thinks that perhaps he’ll come back some day and burn the palace into the ground.
Part IV: Look, A Fire
Chapters 58 – 59
Finally, at the beginning of week four, Cadence remembers a fire. She also remembers that the Liars were the ones that set the fire that burned down Clairmont in summer 15.
That morning, Cadence finally realizes that New Clairmont was rebuilt and all the memories of Gran/Tipper are now gone because they burnt it down. Cadence recalls how they did it when everyone was gone, and they did it on purpose because it was a “symbol”.
Cadence tells Johnny that she remembers now, and Johnny finally tells Cadence that when it happened, the aunts had no longer been speaking to each other anymore. Each night, they’d been getting drunk and having screaming fights over who would be getting what when it came to Grandad’s things, the real estate and the art. Meanwhile, Grandad had added fuel to the fire, getting “drunk on his own power”.
Johnny recalled how his mother wanted him to get in on it and speak poorly of Cadence in order to secure himself a larger inheritance, since his mother knew that she’d lost Granddad’s favor.
Chapters 60 – 61
As more memories return, Cadence recalls how her mother had instructed her to write cards to Granddad the spring before summer 15, after Tipper’s death, saying that Granddad was “very impressionable right now”.
Then, that summer, the aunts had fussed around him, but soon it ended up in fights over Gran’s stuff since Gran was no longer there keeping them at bay. Cadence recalls how bother her mother and Mirren’s mother had instructed them to tell Granddad how much they liked the tablecloths, and they both agreed to do it, but neither of them did.
One night that summer, Granddad had gone over to the Liars to run an idea by them. He was thinking about leaving a large portion of his estate to his alma mater to build a student center, and he wanted their ideas on what to name it. The Liars enjoy being consulted, but Cadence’s mom gets irritated.
Only later, does Cadence think about what Granddad’s question really meant. Since all the aunts were living off their trusts, they all needed the money. The idea that he would leave his money elsewhere wasn’t about asking the kids for their advice, instead it was a veiled threat to his daughters.
Chapters 62 – 64
As Cadence’s memories of summer 15 continue, she recalls how, a few days later during cocktail hour, Granddad had brought up how Bess had mentioned that Windemere seems like too large of a summer house for Penny now that it’s just the two of them (since Cadence’s father had left before summer 15). When Granddad then asked Cadence and Penny what they thought, Cadence understood it was her cue to say how much she loved the house, to praise him and to tell him how great he was for having built it for them. Doing so, she knew, would help ensure they could keep the house. Cadence also understood that it gave him a sense of control to feel like a big man, especially since his world was spinning out now that Tipper was gone.
Instead, Cadence had recognized the “aggression behind his question” and refused to play along. She simply said that the house was “too big for us” and left the room.
Later, her mother had demanded to know why she hadn’t backed her up, saying that they could lose the house. Cadence responded that the house had a bunch of rooms that Bess could probably use since she has four kids. Her mother had disagreed saying it was her house and that they had to “look out for ourselves”. It resulted in an argument where Cadence accused her mother of being selfish and her mother accused her of acting superior because she knew nothing about the world.
Finally, her mother had threatened to send Cadence away for the summers — away from Gat — if she didn’t go suck up to her Granddad as she was told. Cadence finally agreed and did it, and Granddad reassured her that the house was theirs. However, later Mirren told Cadence that he’d also promised the house to Bess.
A few days after the house incident, Gat had mentioned to Cadence how her Granddad never referred to him by his name, instead calling him “young man” instead. Gat said it was because her Granddad couldn’t stand him or Ed because they aren’t white. Cadence’s Granddad knows he’s not supposed to be like that since he’s a Democrat, but he still doesn’t like it in his family.
Gat then says that Ed actually proposed. He and Carrie had been together nice years at that point, and he acts like a father to Johnny and Will, but Carrie still said no because she didn’t want to risk her inheritance.
Gat also recognizes that they’ve been generous in letting him stay there, that he loves it there and that a part of him doesn’t want to “even imagine that it isn’t perfect”, and they kiss.
In present day, Cadence brings up another fairy tale (which ends up being the story of Beauty and the Beast). So, it’s about a wealthy merchant with three daughters, and the younger ones are very spoiled. When he leaves on a trip, he asks what they want and the younger ones want expensive gifts. The oldest one asks for single rose.
When the merchant’s trip ends, he remembers he needs to pick up a rose, plucks one off someone’s fence, but the owner (the beast) catches him and accuses him of stealing. The beast demands in exchange that the merchant give him “the first of your possessions you see upon your return”. When the merchant gets home, his eldest daughter is the first thing that he sees.
Cadence then talks about how we all know how the story ends (with the girl falling in love with the beast) and even though the beast turns out not to be a beast, it’s “awfully hard to convince her father of that”.
Chapters 66 – 68
Cadence continues recounting memories from summer 15. One night, she and Gat decide to raid the pantry at Clairmont looking for chocolate. Instead, they end up overhearing an argument between the three aunts, arguing over their inheritances. Bess says she’s done the most for their parents so she’s earned the right to be compensated for it, and she accuses Carrie of “choosing” not to have Dad’s approval by having Ed and Gat in her life when they’re not “one of us”.
A few days after that, Granddad asks Johnny to meddle with his mother’s relationship, and Johnny refuses even after Granddad threatens to empty out his college fund. Carrie asks Gat to stop going to dinner at Clairmont until things calm down, so all the Liars stop going to dinner.
Then, Bess tells Mirren to talk to Granddad, telling him about how she’s the only one with the grades to get into Harvard and the business mind to be the future of the Sinclair family, pointing out how the twins look like “Sinclairs, through and through”. Mirren refuses, and Bess takes away her phone, laptop and allowance.
That evening, Cadence’s mother, too, demands that she break things off with Gat to protect her inheritance, and she refuses.
Late at night, the Liars take some random art object from the various houses and angrily smash them up. They talk about what if the Clairmont house just burned down to punish and purify them.
Chapters 69 – 72
The next day after that at lunch, now late July in the summer 15, Cadence’s mother drunkenly says to Granddad that she’s tired of trying to “earn” his love and failing at it, and that it’s not fair that her sisters will get more than her. She then threatens to take Cadence away so he can’t see her anymore. That makes him angry, and he lashes out at all three of his daughters, saying they have poor work ethics, saying that their divorces and broken homes show a lack of respect for traditional values and saying that they’ve disappointed him.
All three of the women were upset by this. (In present day, Johnny and Mirren help Cadence to recollect what happened next.) After that, the aunts decide to leave the island, but the Liars decide to start the fire. The Liars saw the Clairmont house as a symbol of everything that was wrong and the “seat of the patriarchy” in their family, and they wanted to burn it down. Gat especially was angry because either Carrie would marry Ed and they’d be cut off from the rest of the family, or Carrie had to leave Ed and Gat would no longer be one of them.
Cadence recalls how she and Gat were the ones who convinced Johnny and Mirren to do it, convincing themselves that they were right about it. They planned to soak the house in gasoline before lighting it on fire.
In present day, Cadence talks about how their plan basically worked, but the others are less triumphant about it. Cadence says that at least they’re all still here together now thanks to the fire, and Granddad has less power. Mirren points out that Granddad only has less power because of his mental decline, and Gat wants to say more but Johnny stops him.
Chapters 73 – 78
Afterwards, Cadence asks her mother why she didn’t tell her about the fire. Her mother says it’s because the doctors warned her against upsetting her about it.
When Cadence gets back to her room, Mirren is there. and Mirren admits that she never actually read the e-mails that Cadence had sent her last summer while she was in Europe, and she asks to read them now. Cadence pulls up the 28 e-mails she sent. Mirren reads them and apologies again before leaving.
Cadence then continues her notes regarding her recollected memories. As she does, she remembers that they had forgotten that the dogs, Fatima and Prince Phillip, would be shut up in the house, and the dogs burned to death in the fire.
Remembering this, Cadence feels upset and runs out of the house, sobbing. She thinks about her delusional bravado from earlier that day about how their plan had worked out.
When Gat sees her, he holds her. Cadence tells him she remembered the dogs, but then Gat’s response lets her know there were more negative consequences from their actions. Cadence asks him to tell her, but Gat says that they’ve been telling her, but she’s not able to hear it.
Cadence pleads with him to explain what happened between the two of them, but Gat’s unable to tell her. He says that it’s been wrong of him to get involved with her again and that he should have stayed away. She says she loves him, but he leaves.
Cadence then recalls being in a hospital bed after her accident. Through the recollection, she realizes that her hands and feet were bandaged from being burned.
Cadence writes another fairy tale, this time involving the birth of three beautiful children (representing Johnny, Mirren and Gat). However, there’s also a witch (Cadence) who is the same age as them and curses them all. She says that when they are sixteen that they will strike a match and die in the flame.
The family moves away to prevent the witch from finding them, but just before the children turn sixteen, the witch shows up as a blond maiden and befriends the kids. She encourages them to play with fire, they strike the match and she watches them burn.
Part V: Truth
Cadence finally realizes the truth of what happened. In summer 15 when the house burned, Gat, Mirren and Johnny died in the fire. (So, they’ve only existed in summer 17 in her imagination or as ghosts, however you want to interpret it.) When the fire happened, Cadence was unable to save the people and dogs inside. She tried, but was burned and ran away.
When they found her, she was on the beach, curled up into a ball and with a head injury. Granddad declined to have the fire investigated. Cadence ended up with no memory of it, and doctors believe her migraines are caused by grief and guilt.
Initially, her mother tried to tell her what happened, but eventually doctors recommended that she let Cadence remember on her own and to let her heal for a year before returning to Beechwood.
Chapters 81 – 82
In starting the fire, the plan had been to spread the gasoline, away from the kindling, let it catch on fire and run away to meet at Cuddledown. Johnny and Mirren had gone to the top two floors of Clairmont, and Gat had gone to the basement.
They had been a little drunk, and Cadence was in charge of dousing the ground floor. She’d already done the kitchen, pantry, dining and living room when she realized that she should’ve started from the other side, since they were supposed to exit from the kitchen.
Instead, her shoes were now soaked in fuel, and she reminded her self to take them off and toss them in the fire before leaving. When she finally struck her match in the study, the room caught on fire much faster than she’d anticipated because of all the books. She hears Johnny scream, followed by additional screams. She runs outside and calls their names, but gets no response. She goes to Cuddledown, expecting to find them there, but the house is dark. When she gets back to Clairmont, it’s entirely in flames and there’s no way to get into the basement or upper floors.
In present day, Cadence thinks about all the stupid mistakes they’d made in planning things out. From striking her match in the study, to not setting a specific time to light their kindling, to separating out instead of staying together.
She then cries for her family for the people they’ve lost, and she cries thinking about her meaningless charity and the horror she was responsible for. She realizes now she she did not “free” her family by setting Clairmont on fire, but rather she destroyed them enough that they came together through the tragedy.
Chapters 83 – 86
Cadence mother knocks on her door, asking if her migraines are back, but Cadence says that it’s something else. Her mother says that she loves her and then leaves.
After her mother leaves, Cadence continues to see the Liars there with her, though Johnny now says that they can’t stay much longer. Johnny says he’s tired and ready to “lie down and be done”. Mirren admits that she is full of “leftover rage” despite wanting to be “saintly and wise”. The two of them then walk into the sea. Afterwards, Gat kisses Cadence, but his skin feels cold, and then he runs into the sea as well and is gone.
For days afterwards Cadence sleeps. When she finally emerges, she sees that Ed is there with everyone else, apparently back in the picture. Meanwhile, her mother gives her a hug, understanding that her memory has returned.
When Taft scrapes his knee, Cadence offers to help Taft with a Band-Aid the way that Mirren used to do it. The next day, Cadence goes to Cuddledown and cleans up the mess she left hanging out there the previous weeks. Before she leaves, she draws a stick figure portrait of the Liars and sticks it on the fridge.
Cadence writes one last fairy tale. This one is about a a king with three beautiful daughters who later grow up to have their own kids. The kids do something stupid and criminal and some of them die in a fire, leaving three girls and two boys (Cadence, Liberty, Bonnie, Taft, and Will). The remaining family members grieve. For outsiders, the deaths give the family a mysterious, tragic and romantic air. However, the remaining kids know that there was nothing glamorous about tragedy.
The books ends with Cadence saying that she will endure.
Highly Recommended Published May 13, 2014
Page Count 256 pages
Goodreads3.68 (out of 5)
From the Publisher
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.