Tuesday, May 6, 2014

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

Main character: High school freshman Nell Golden
Location: San Francisco
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA fiction, Relationships, Sisters

Nell Golden is so excited to be going into high school where her older sister is already the star of the soccer team.  Nell and Layla have always been close, and the last two years of going to separate schools has been hard on Nell.  Now finally, the sisters will be back together and life will be back to normal--except, of course, that it won't.

There is an ominous tone throughout this book, a feeling that things are not going well and will not end well.  Layla is sometimes distant, not talking to Nell and not wanting to do things with her.  When Nell finds out why, she feels compelled to keep Layla's secret from her parents, to keep the peace, just as she has always done.

It doesn't help that Nell sometimes refers to the Creed bothers, family friends who were as close as Nell and Layla were--until one brother died in an accident (possibly because of drugs) and the other commits suicide because he cannot live without his brother.  Nell even has imaginary conversations with the Creeds.  I was really dreading a very tragic end. 

The book is written as if from Nell to Layla, putting the reader in the position of Layla but without knowing everything that Layla does.  (Is this a long letter to a dead sister, perhaps?)  This choice does really draw the reader in and makes this a hard book to put down.

Layla isn't the only one with a secret.  Nell develops a crush on a good-looking junior boy, Sam.  She even tries out for the school play to get close to him.  When Layla tries to warn Nell about him--that he has a cruelness about him--the sisters' relationship has already been damaged to the point that Nell ignores her.  There is a discretely written scene that takes place at the closing night party, when Nell learns that Layla was right about Sam's cruelness.  (The scene is so discrete that it is open to interpretation--when Nell denies the rumors that Sam himself starts, I was surprised.  Is she telling the truth? Or has she turned into a unreliable narrator?)

I did like this book, though I recognize it may not be to everyone's taste.  It does not have a lot of action, but it is an in-depth look at families, sisterhood, and all the different ways of love.  Though one cannot say that it has a happy ending, it certainly is a better one that I had foreseen.

I read this as an advanced ebook from NetGalley.  We Are the Goldens is scheduled to be published on May 27, 2014.

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