A complimentary advanced reader copy of this book was provided by Wendy Lamb Books in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!) My review was in no way influenced by this consideration.
Trying to write a review of We Are the Goldens is giving me fits, and I think it comes down to the fact that it’s not really a book about what I thought it would be about. The synopsis for Goldens talks a lot about two sisters, Nell and Layla, and their relationship–the things they’ve struggled together, and what happens when things start to change. And that’s not wrong, exactly, but it’s not quite right, either.
My experience of Goldens was that it’s a book about Nell. She’s starting high school and finding that a lot of things aren’t quite what she expected–her sister isn’t as reliable as she used to be, parties aren’t really all that fun, and boys who seem dreamy can turn out to be basically the worst. Sometimes the guy you’ve been looking for is right under your nose, and sometimes your parents aren’t the enemy. For me, it was pretty clearly a coming-of-age story, and didn’t have much to do with sisterhood at all, except that there are some nice moments between Nell and Layla, from time to time.
There are also some moments I really would have liked examined in more detail. Throughout the book, Layla is in a relationship with her teacher (I know, ick!), and while Nell is upset about it, and unsure what to do, we’re kind of left hanging re: what any adults might think of the whole thing. Bizarrely, the book ends just as Nell chooses to tell her family about Layla’s relationship, and so we never find out what becomes of the whole thing, or how anyone reacts. It’s not that we can’t guess how any parent or school administrator might react in such a situation, but the book has spent so much time focusing on this plotline, this point of contention between Nell and Layla, that it’s bizarre to end at the climactic point and give no kind of denoument at all. I found it a strange literary choice.
I also would have liked more information on Layla’s point of view. I did enjoy the book (up to the abrupt ending) as written, from mostly Nell’s viewpoint, but I felt like it could have been so much harder hitting if it had given us deeper insight into Layla’s mental and emotional state. It’s not every day a teenager gets wrapped up with a teacher, but it does happen, and I felt like this book had the opportunity to really say something about it. In that department, it fell a little flat.
Regardless, We Are the Goldens was entertainingly written. Interestingly, it’s written in second person, from Nell to Layla. It’s not a convention we see often, and I enjoyed that. As for characters, I liked Nell well enough, and found her easy to relate to, and I really loved Felix. He’s the best best friend a girl could ask for, and I’d have loved to have seen how that played out in a longer ending. I’d definitely be interested in reading more from Reinhardt to see how she handles a different kind of story.
A fast read. No sex or swearing. 3.5 stars.
First line: “There’s something I need to tell you.”