We Are the Goldens (2014)
That’s what a young Nell used to call herself, because she was so close to her older sister. Layla would laugh: “I am Layla,” and [Layla] tapped [her] chest, then you reached out to touch mine. “You are Nell.”
Dana Reinhardt chose the title–“We Are the Goldens” advisedly: the two sisters were golden in a sense: the sisters shone, a close team, both soccer stars, best friends, popular, with Nell happily basking in Layla’s long shadow. There was something golden about them, at least at the beginning.
Nellayla. Gradually, they grew apart as siblings do, until one day, a schism opened that threatened to explode the sisters’ relation forever.
Layla had found a man, a charming predator, of sorts, who was too old to be with a sixteen-year-old girl. But he was.
Nell got her first clue by accidentally looking at a text on Layla’s phone. One by one, more oddities occurred, until Nell figured out who the man was, and just how treacherous he could be.
She tried to make Layla understand, but it was for naught. Teenagers in love overlook a lot of faults–think of Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen in the movie “Badlands” (highly recommended, btw).
The more Nell pressured Layla to end the affair, the further apart the sisters grew. It was like the poles of a magnet reversing from pure attraction to repulsion. Nell grew so concerned about her sister having her heart broken, that she did the strongest thing she could think of.
“We are the Goldens” stops there, and it’s a perfect way to end this novel.
The entire novel is narrated by Nell, and she’s smart and sassy, funny and confident. She doesn’t mind being known as “Layla’s little sister”–she idolizes Layla so much, it’s the ultimate compliment. This makes her the best possible narrator, because she loves her sister so much, and she wants to stop this new problem before it gets worse.
The ultimate question is whether the two sisters will ever reconcile. Or if l Layla’s feeling of betrayal ruins the sisters’ relationship forever. We–as readers–are left to ponder that on our own.
The way author Dana Reinhardt sets it up, she’s tapping herself in the chest saying, “I am the author,” then reaches out to touch our chests and says, “and you are the reader. I’ve gotten you to the last step. You figure out how it plays out.”
One thing is clear: Nellayla is gone forever, and this is the perfect way to end a beautifully written book.
Most Highly Recommended
(nb: I received an advanced review copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley)