Unsettled. That’s the immediate feeling I had when I finished We Are the Goldens. This is a book that subtly sucks the reader into the emotional turmoil the narrator experiences but doesn’t give the neatly packaged happy ending that one is wont to have. Here, that’s not a bad thing – the entire book is an exploration of how perceptions distort reality and how things that are seemingly right in front of us are not always so glaringly obvious. This book is honest, in all the ugly ways that life is.
We Are the Goldens takes readers on a journey with high school freshman Nell as she slowly comes to terms with the shift in the relationship she holds with her older sister Layla. The two have always been inseparable, and Nell eagerly looks forward to starting high school with junior Layla. What Nell expects to be a continuation of their previous relationship actually ends up being a reality check about the two sisters’ distinct identities and experiences. Over time, Nell begins to realize that Layla’s withdrawal and questionable behaviors are likely the result of an illicit relationship with one of their teachers. What follows is Nell’s frantic attempt to salvage their relationship and her sister from what she feels is a disastrous outcome.
This book is told in second person perspective, with Nell narrating to Layla. Reinhardt has done a solid job of conveying the myriad complicated emotions experienced by nearly everyone in the story, despite being told from only Nell’s perspective. The reader is walked through the Golden girls’ (no pun intended) parent’s divorce and their adjustment to two lifestyles at each parent’s home. The reader also sees each girl’s budding sexuality in high school. Where Nell is more innocent and oblivious, Layla has taken on a more mature view on it. The concentration of emotions throughout this book is strong. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and gets extremely intense toward the end, as Nell finds herself forced to confront Layla’s relationship and choices.
Reading We Are the Goldens transported me back to my own adolescence, with all its angst and uncertainty. Right down to its last sentence, this book will have you anxious to see things beyond the narrator’s vantage point just for the sake of having a concrete answer. When it ended, I was wanting more, hoping a sequel was on its heels. I definitely recommend this book for its reality, its honest way of handling real life situations with real consequences.