Advanced copy provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Title: We Are the Goldens
Author: Dana Reinhardt
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Nell knows a secret about her perfect, beautiful sister Layla. If she tells, it could blow their world apart.
When Nell and Layla were little, Nell used to call them Nellaya. Because to Nell, there was no difference between where she started and her adored big sister ended. They’re a unit; divorce made them rely on each other early on, so when one pulls away, what is the other to do? But now, Nell’s a freshman in high school and Layla is changing, secretive. And then Nell discovers why. Layla is involved with one of their teachers. And even though Nell tries to support Layla, to understand that she’s happy and in love, Nell struggles with her true feelings: it’s wrong, and she must do something about it.
We Are the Goldens is a short novel about familial bonds and the relationship between sisters, and the struggle to provide love and support through the first explorations of adulthood: adult feelings, relationships, and issues. It’s perspective is unique, told in an almost epistolary form from the younger sister to the older. It reads like a long diary entry which is at once difficult to adjust to and a gateway into the speaker’s inner most thoughts.
I wasn’t sure what to think of this novel from the beginning. I almost put it down more than once, but I persisted, having receive the e-galley from Netgalley in exchange for this review. The start is rocky, I will admit. The prose itself is jerky and it takes some time, but it does eventually establish a flow and the novel did improve vastly.
Nell is a soccer playing, Shakespeare loving girl with a best friend Felix who might also be the love of her life. She’s struggling to live in the shadow of her idolized older sister who, in her eyes, is infinitely wise, beautiful and perfect. Nell strives to live her high school life in the image of her sister and try and achieve the same level of perfection. Her relationship with Felix is simultaneously both simple and very complex. Their exchanges are rooted in the purest of friendships, but there is underlying tension as friendship contemplates development into romance. I enjoyed reading their banter and their camaraderie adds a much needed sweetness to a heavier story.
This novel addresses some very real issues that face teens today and it does so in a way that’s accessible, relatable, and not too overwhelming. The characters face the struggles of transitioning from childhood to adulthood and are tentatively learning to deal with and comprehend issues of death, relationships, sex, isolation, etc.
The build up to the final climax and the greatest struggle faced in the book was a point of struggle for me. I saw the ending coming from miles off. I knew the ending to the book at a quarter of the way into the story. There was little subtle about it. This was a major flaw in the story’s unfolding for me. Why continue reading if you know what’s going to happen? Nell’s story isn’t anything new, but I do like the way that the issues were presented. The obviousness of the plot is the reason for my rating: 3/5 stars.
I would say this book borders on the younger edge of YA fiction in terms of its target age. Nell is 15 years old, and the target audience is probably in and around that area. The diction has a simplicity about it that conveys this innocence of the protagonist, but also slots the book into a younger age range. It’s not a bad read, and a younger audience will definitely enjoy it.