Sunday, May 18, 2014
Reinhardt, D. (2014). We are the Goldens. NY: Random House Children's Books.
Young Adult / realistic fiction
I gave this book 3 of 5 stars.
Great potential in this book, but open ending aside, there was just too much unfinished business. I was interested enough to read it straight through in a sitting (it's short), and it seemed to be building up to something, but afterwards, I was unsatisfied.
The writing is good and seems natural for our teenaged main character, Nell. It is epistolary, with Nell writing a long diary-style, chaptered letter to be read by her sister, Layla. Nell tells us that she and her sister have been one unit their whole lives until recently, but it really isn't convincing to me - what I felt was more a one-sided idolization by Nell more than any kind of equal adoration between sisters. On top of that, Layla isn't particularly like-able to me - pretty and popular don't really cut it for the level of coolness she's supposed to possess. There are hints of a deeper person in Layla, but mostly, she came off flaky and very narcissistic (fairly normal for a seventeen-year-old in her shoes). I understand how sisterly bonds run deep and so despite the perceived flaws in Nell and Layla's relationship, I could accept it and even empathize, knowing that there was so much more to it than readers were told.
Back to the unfinished business. There were basically three things that didn't work for me and that held me back from rating this higher. One: By far the most interesting and favorite character in the story is Felix, but Reinhardt throws in a significant side story about Felix's family, and then leaves it dangling; it needed resolution or elimination. Two: two dead brothers play a significant role as a coping mechanism for Nell (this isn't a spoiler); that's not normal and it's just out there with no explanation, acting like it is normal. Three: this is a young adult story, so I expect to see some consequences -- or at least some empowerment on the part of our main character as she makes decisions and/or takes control; there are/is none. The hint in the ending that Nell is finally making a decision isn't enough because her plan is simple, vague, and flawed given what readers know about Nell's family.
At just 200ish pages, there was room for so much more to this story to be something to which a teenager could read and relate and from which a teen could learn something. Maybe a teen reader will be satisfied, but I am doubtful.
There is some language, sexual situations without elaboration (including adult sex with minors), and underage drinking. It's all appropriate for the context of the story.
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children's Books for providing me this free ARC in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give!