By Ekta R. Garg
May 28, 2014
Rated: Borrow it
A teenager gets ready for what she thinks will be the best freshman year anyone has ever had. She’s all set to try out for the varsity soccer team, and her sister, Layla, will certainly pave the way for an awesome social life. But when Layla starts acting mysteriously, Nell realizes her perfect sister may need help keeping up what is quickly becoming a façade. Dana Reinhardt gives YA readers this story in the unusually told but somewhat plodding book We Are the Goldens.
Nell Golden can’t wait to start attending City Day, the private high school where her sister has made waves as the elder Golden sister. Despite dividing time between their divorced parents on a regular basis, Nell and Layla live fairly well adjusted teenage lives. Nell has no problem admitting her hero(ine) worship of her big sister, and even though she has, Felix, an awesome best friend, Nell knows everyone envies her the privilege of having Layla in her life.
When she makes the varsity soccer team, Nell begins what she knows will become her slow ascent to Golden greatness. Layla spent two years establishing the standard, and Nell desperately wants to live up to it. Making varsity is her first stop in the right direction.
Then she meets Sam Fitzpayne, the boy, and Nell knows that nothing could ruin her freshman year. As the darling of the junior class, Layla knows the right people and hangs out at all at the right parties. It’s a foregone conclusion that Nell will follow in her footsteps.
But then a funny thing happens. Although Nell manages to catch Sam’s attention, he starts to loom a little too large in her life. As she starts to get settled in high school, she starts ignoring Felix in order to try to fit in with her surroundings.
The biggest problem, though, is Layla. All of a sudden, Layla doesn’t have time to hang out with Nell. Because Nell assumes that everything Layla does is perfect, she searches her own self and her own schedule to try to figure out what could have gone wrong. But little by little Nell figures out that she isn’t the problem; Layla has a secret. When Layla shares it with her, Nell feels floored. This secret supersedes everything Nell knows to be right, but how can she betray the trust and confidence of her perfect older sister?
Author Dana Reinhardt uses second person to relay her story, with Nell narrating as if she’s speaking directly to Layla. Some readers might like the sense of intimacy this narrative choice gives the book, but at times the sequence of events or the identity of the speaker during dialogue becomes cloudy. Also, the second person point of view lets readers get a firsthand view of Nell’s adulation of Layla. After a certain point, Nell’s feelings become redundant and drag down the pacing of the story in some spots.
Teen and adult readers can use the story as a talking point about relationships and what to do when they become bigger than what teens can handle. Reinhardt definitely wins on this point, and the relevancy of the story to today’s headlines will help teen readers relate to it. For the most part the second person narration gives the book’s intended audience the sense that they’re reading something akin to Nell’s diary, and that tactic will keep readers engaged until the end.
Most readers of YA fiction may enjoy this book, but I recommend it with the cautionary note to be prepared for a little bit of dragging in spots.