May 28, 2014

Latest Read: We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt
Publication date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Received from publisher via Netgalley (Thanks!)
Summary: 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. (Adapted goodreads.com)

The good
From the beginning, we are pulled into the secrets of the Goldens. We are both reader and confidante to Nell as she tells us about how much she wants to be like her sister Layla and a secret she knows about her. Nell idolizes Layla in a way that I imagine most younger siblings do when they see their “cooler” older brother or sister. (I certainly felt that way about my older cousin, who is like a sister to me!) Nell has this almost worship-like view of her sister and it’s clear they’re close. She wants to follow directly in her footsteps - same high school, same sports. But as she begins high school and starts to see some cracks in her sister’s perfect exterior, she starts to figure out who she wants to be as Nell. Instead of Layla’s little sister.

There’s something very young and naive about Nell, which was both endearing and at times, frustrating. I loved how much she loved her sister and the happiness she felt when Layla paid her attention. But I couldn’t help thinking her admiration bordered on unhealthy because she was so focused on being like Layla instead of herself. Which is why watching her branch out into her own person was so gratifying. She definitely makes some (major) missteps but she’s young and it’s understandable. The point is, she tries to do the right thing. And when she sees the tangled web Layla has caught herself in — I admired her honesty as she told her sister flat-out what she thought.

Another detail I enjoyed was Nell’s best friend Felix. It’s the classic "can guys and girls really be best friends?" question. It’s explored a bit here and I craved so much more of it! I enjoyed Felix and Nell’s dynamic and he really saw her for who she was. I think their scenes may have been my favorite part of the book.

(Some) reservations
The book itself was a quick read but the plot itself moved at a pretty slow pace. Layla’s “secrets” are dragged out and the build up made it seem like the final secret would be huge. I don’t know exactly what I expected but the reveal didn’t make me gasp out loud. Still I was curious to see how the reveal would play out and that’s the point when the author decided to end the book. I really don’t mind a little ambiguity in an ending as long it feels resolved at an emotional level. But in this case, we finally got down to the nitty-gritty and it just ended.

Also, while I did sympathize with the characters to a certain degree, I never felt connected to either of them. Maybe it was the slow pace, partially due to the lack of character development or writing in second person. But something was missing for me. I wanted more of everything which shows that there was a lot of potential here but didn’t quite hits its stride.

Do I recommend?
I’m iffy about this one. While I don’t see myself personally recommending it to any of my friends, I can see why it would pique someone’s curiosity. So if you really want to see for yourself, check it out from the library.

Collaborative feature with Alexa! 

What do you think of books written in second person?
I kept thinking about this while reading because I had a hard time connecting to the characters and I thought maybe it had to do with writing in second person. But then I remembered All The Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry and how the main character was so well-developed and I felt like we really got to know her. I can't say second person is my favorite POV but if done well, I think it can be really effective. 

1 comment:

  1. I love how perfectly worded your review of We Are the Goldens is! I honestly think you've expressed our shared sentiments towards this novel, particularly in your reservations section. I do wish I'd been able to connect with Nell or Layla a little bit more, as I really think that would have helped immerse me further into this story.

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