Dead Ends by Erin Lange
|Dead Ends by Erin Lange|
|Reviewer: Robert James|
|Summary: A really great friendship between two unlikely mates is the centrepiece of this excellent book. Well worth reading.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: February 2014|
|Publisher: Faber & Faber|
Shortlisted for the 2015 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize: Best Book for Teens
Dane is a rebel who's close to getting kicked out of a school; Billy D is the new kid in town. One of Dane's few rules of behaviour is that he won't hit kids in special ed, so Billy D figures hanging around with someone tough who won't hit him is a good idea - although it's not that easy to convince Dane of this. He really needs to, though, because he has a puzzle to solve and Dane could be the perfect person to help him.
This is both a slightly easier read than Erin Lange's impressive debut Butter - although it still looks at some tough themes - and overall an even better book. Narrator Dane has an incredible voice, and it's refreshing to see a young rebel who's actually getting good grades in school (at least when he's not suspended) rather than the more typical streetwise teen who's struggling educationally. The real gem of the book, though, is the friendship between Dane and Billy D. It’s a masterful portrayal of two boys who initially become mates through necessity and eventually grow to really like and respect each other. In particular, Dane’s frustration when Billy D is treated differently because of his Down’s Syndrome is very well-written – and it’s all the more interesting that despite it irritating him when other people do it, he still falls into that trap himself at times.
I think perhaps the most heartening thing about the book is that it’s not really a book about Down’s Syndrome. I say that because a few years ago, if any author had touched on a character like Billy D, their condition would almost certainly have been the main thrust of the book. Dead Ends, though, is a book about friendship, about searching for someone you've lost, about growing up, and about potential romance – it just happens that one of the main characters has Down’s. While it’s written about with great skill, it’s never his defining characteristic.
It's also got an unpredictable, and really brilliantly written, climax. Overall this is a high recommendation for all fans of contemporary teen novels.
I think fans of Lange would also like Keren David, who deals with some equally tough issues. Her most recent, Salvage, is excellent.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dead Ends by Erin Lange at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Dead Ends by Erin Lange at Amazon.com.
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