Review: We are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

Nell knows a secret about her perfect, beautiful sister Layla. If she tells, it could blow their world apart.

When Nell and Layla were little, Nell used to call them Nellaya. Because to Nell, there was no difference between where she started and her adored big sister ended. They’re a unit; divorce made them rely on each other early on, so when one pulls away, what is the other to do? But now, Nell’s a freshman in high school and Layla is changing, secretive. And then Nell discovers why. Layla is involved with one of their teachers. And even though Nell tries to support Layla, to understand that she’s happy and in love, Nell struggles with her true feelings: it’s wrong, and she must do something about it.

I received We are the Goldens in exchange for an honest review.

We Are the Goldens is written as if Nell is speaking or writing to Layla. I liked that writing style and found that it really held my interest, but I spent the entire book terrified that I would get to the end and find out that Layla had committed suicide and that Nell was writing a letter to her dead sister. I won’t spoil whether that happened or not, but I will say that I though the ending was weak. Part of my problem with it was that it was open-ended, and that type of ending just isn’t for me. Some people don’t like cliffhangers in series books; I don’t mind them too much, but with stand-alones, I like closure.

I liked Nell a lot, but found her a little problematic. As she reached high school, her entire identity was wrapped up in being Layla’s little sister. It’s one thing to look up to an older sister, but her idolization of Layla was almost unhealthy. Even if Layla hadn’t been in a clandestine relationship with a teacher, it was natural, as their mother pointed out when Layla skipped their annual spa weekend, for Layla to start pulling away. It’s how you grow up.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you ignore your sister and family entirely, which is what it seemed like Layla was doing. She was so wrapped up in her relationship and so concerned with keeping it a secret, that she didn’t spend any time with Nell. Nell kept talking about their sisterly bond, about it was always the two of them against the world, but there wasn’t any real evidence of it. It was all in the past, when they were children. It made me wonder if Nell felt like they were a pair, but did Layla? Or had Layla long seen Nell as her tagalong little sister, the one who followed her around and tried to do everything Layla was doing?

To be fair, Nell did branch out on her own, trying out (and landing) a part in the school play, and she did have other friends. Well, one friend, a boy named Felix. Felix even got his own mini-storyline with his father’s illness. I felt for him in that respect, and I liked him overall, but he was part of the reason I didn’t care for the end of the book.

We are the Goldens is the first Dana Reinhardt book I’ve read, but I know I have or used to have a copy of How to Build a House. I think I kept it during Book Purge 2014. I hope so because while I didn’t love the story being told in We Are the Goldens, I really like her writing and want to read more.

3 stars