by Dana Reinhardt
Published by May 27, 2014
by Wendy Lamb Books
Source: giveaway at ALA
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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. 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.My take: This is a short (208 pages), beautifully written book about two sisters and what happens when the close bond between them begins to unravel as Nell, the younger sister, discovers a secret that Layla, the older sister, has been keeping. That's it. The book is about the sisters' relationship, and about how knowing the secret puts a strain on Nell and the way she interacts with other people in her life -- her parents, her best friend, and the guy she has a crush on. The secret is revealed in the blurb above, but I edited it out. (It's not the kind of secret I like in a YA book, and if I'd known that was the secret, I might not have read the book.)
We Are the Goldens is set in San Francisco, a place I visited recently, and I loved seeing Nell make her way around the city. I also really, really loved Felix, Nell's best friend. The story is written in a sort-of-second person style. Nell, the narrator, addresses her sister as "you" throughout the story, as if she's talking or writing to her. Second person narration is usually way too weird and jarring for me, but I thought this technique really worked, emphasizing how close the two sisters were until the secret came between them.
Another thing I liked about We Are the Goldens is that the what and the why of the secret really aren't the point of the book. The story is really about Nell and her struggle to define herself in relation to her sister. I loved that this beautifully-crafted little book, like the lovely, cropped close-up photo on the cover, focuses so narrowly. Other readers may disagree, and I will admit that the abrupt ending was a little unsatisfying. But I also think it fit the story. There was only one aspect of the story that didn't quite work for me, and that was the dead brothers. (Hard to explain if you haven't read the book.) But overall, I'm a big fan of this book. If you enjoy realistic YA and enjoy reading things that break the typical YA mold, you should definitely try this one!