We Are the Goldens was last modified: November 2nd, 2015 by 60second Recap
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Posted on by 60second Recap
Title: The Hired Girl
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Title: Bellweather Rhapsody
Author: Kate Racculia
Author: Dana Reinhardt
Genre: Fiction (YA, realistic/”issue”)
Year published: 2014
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (Random House)
Length: 208 compelling, realistic pages
Nell and Layla used to be closer than close. Sisters, best friends, confidantes. Practically twins. But now that they’re in high school together, something has changed. Layla, a junior, is secretive, strange. Nell, a freshman, just wants her sister back.
Then comes the revelation: Layla is involved with a teacher. But instead of drawing the girls closer together, the knowledge of Layla’s secret only intensifies Nell’s feelings of isolation. What’s a sister to do? Sworn to silence, Nell must pick her way through the minefield of family dynamics, sisterly loyalty, and the leadings of her own heart—all while trying to survive the transition to high school. Any reader who has been burdened by a devastating secret will relate to Nell’s struggle to do the right thing for the person she loves most.
I don’t always love “issue” books—especially when those “issues” are ripped straight from the headlines. But in Dana Reinhardt’s capable hands, the all-too-familiar teacher-student affair doesn’t turn We Are the Goldens into a trashy melodrama. Instead, this book is a sensitive exploration of how to protect—and sometimes save—the people in our lives who make awful choices.
One reason We Are the Goldens is so effective is because its focus is on Nell, not Layla. We get only the faintest outlines of Layla’s relationship with the offending teacher. (And even those details are reasonably neutral.) What we do get in painful, totally believable detail, is Nell’s journey through confusion, shock, complicity, the tumult of a moral dilemma, and finally, the courage and conviction to act.
What’s also totally believable is that Nell’s emotional turmoil isn’t just a reaction to her sister’s disturbing love interest. To Nell, Layla was everything. The big sister she looked up to, revered, adored…and whom Nell has now discovered is far from perfect. Though the focus of the story is on Nell’s moral dilemma—now that she knows her sister’s secret, what’s the right course of action?—the pain she experiences is much more wrapped up in her shattered image of Layla. This is a classic trope of coming-of-age stories, but one that’s rarely explored with such poignancy.
We Are the Goldens is far from a feel-good story, but it is a book that’s definitely worth reading—and sharing with teens who are coming to grips with their own secrets, big or small.