If you know anything about me, you will know I’m a sucker for a good coming-of-age tale.
(For those of you who don’t know anything about me: Hi, I’m Danielle, and I’m a sucker for a good coming-of-age tale.)
I found my new favorite narrator in Nell Golden, a freshman with big dreams starting high school at City Day. Nell’s narration is directed towards her older sister, Layla, with whom Nell shares a special bond. When Nell was younger she called herself “Nellayla,” unable to comprehend that Layla was not a part of her own name. Nell looks up to Layla and sees her as beautiful, smart, and talented. After their parents’ divorce when Nell is in kindergarten, the one constant in Nell’s life is her sister.
As Nell shares her thoughts, hopes, and fears with her sister (directing everything to “you”), we get to share in these things, too. We follow Nell through her first months of freshman year at City Day, sharing in her excitement when she makes the soccer team (the back of her jersey says “Golden 2”), pining after the super cute Sam Fitzpayne in play rehearsal, and goofing off with her best friend, Felix.
I should take a moment to state how much I loved the friendship between Nell and Felix. Nell and Felix have been friends for a long time, and though Nell remarks that it may be strange to have a boy best friend, it seems anything but. The affection between the pair is incredibly sweet, and they know each other so well. Their banter is playful and goofy, and I was happy to see that Nell has such a positive presence in her life, especially when her sister starts withdrawing.
An interesting addition: Nell sometimes has imaginary conversations with the Creed brothers, two young acquaintances who died when Nell was younger. The brothers often appear when Nell is troubled, and offer their own advice or point out painful truths. Nell imagines that one brother couldn’t live without the other.
Yes, the main focus of the novel is the relationship between siblings. After a trip to see a palm reader, Layla begins acting strange. She makes excuses to get out of family obligations, she lies about skipping classes, and the worst part: she starts shutting Nell out. Nell is devastated when her sister, who for so long seemed to be a part of her, wants to separate.
As Nell comes to terms with her sister’s dangerous secret, she also has to come to terms with her own personal issues. Between confusing signals from a boy, to complications with her best friend, Nell’s perfect freshman year is not turning out how she’d hoped.
I think I found Nell’s narration so relatable because it brought me back to my own high school days. I remember the sinking feeling of dread when I was unsure whether I should speak up about something. There’s the terrifying feeling of knowing between right and wrong but not being sure if you’re ready to admit to that knowledge. Nell’s desire to feel love – from a boy, from her parents, and most importantly, her sister – is so realistic. We are reading about the fragility of a young girl toeing the line into adulthood. Reinhardt pulls this off very well.
The only complaint I have about this story is that the ending felt a little abrupt to me, and while I understand why it ended where it did, I would have liked to see an epilogue of sorts.
I highly recommend picking up a copy of We Are the Goldens when it is released on May 27th. It’s a book that will stay with me for a long time.
Release Date: May 27, 2014