Dana Reinhardt: We Are the Goldens (2014)

We Are the Goldens

Publication date: 2014

Pages: 198

Word count: ?

Ages: YA

Last year I read my first Dana Reinhardt novel (The Summer I Learned to Fly) and liked it a great deal. The story was cute, the characters lovable but what I liked the most was the tone and the voice.

I knew I would read another of her novels very soon and when I saw We Are The Goldens at the book shop, I had to get it.

Freshman Nell and her best friend Felix can hardly wait to go to Nell’s older sister’s school. Like her sister, Layla, she’ll be joining the varsity soccer team. The two sisters are very close. Nell worships Layla and thinks of them as one person – Nellayla. But as soon as Nell and Felix join Layla at her school, Layla begins to change. Like most of the girls she seems taken with her art teacher, a cool, edgy guy. Because he’s young, good-looking, and accessible, many rumours circulate. Everybody thinks he’s having affairs with his students. When Layla withdraws more and more and doesn’t share anything with Nell, Nell gets frantic. Is it possible Layla hides something from her? Something as big as an affair with a teacher? When Nell finally finds out what it is, she struggles to understand Layla and earn her trust.

While observing Layla takes up a lot of Nell’s time, she has also got to figure out a lot of things for herself. Falling in love with the wrong guy is just one of them.

We Are the Goldens is told in second person, as if the narrator, Nell, was speaking directly to her older sister Layla. Second person is a difficult point of view. It’s not easy to pull it off but Dana Reinhardt really made this work. It gives the book a very intimate feel, which I enjoyed. I also loved Nell’s voice. It’s a likable, gentle voice.

To be entirely honest, We Are the Goldens was a bit of a mixed bag. I really loved Nell’s part of the story. When she focussed on herself, her love life, her best friend Felix, going to a new school, her hopes and dreams. Nell and Felix are an adorable couple. He stands by her, no matter what. But what I didn’t like is the obsessive nature of Nell’s feelings for her sister. I found that a bit unhealthy.

The book has two major twists. To write about them would totally spoil the book, so let’s just say, I wasn’t too keen on the second twist. Or rather on what Nell did. The twist was actually surprising and made the book come together. One thing’s for sure, it’s the kind of ending, one would like to discuss.

While I didn’t love this book as much as The Summer I Learned to Fly and do have a couple of reservations, I still enjoyed it and can’t wait to read another of Dana Reinhardt’s books.

Fire by Kristin Cashore (2009)


Published by Dial Books in 2009

460 pages

112,634 words

Ages YA 

Did you ever shy away from reading another book by an author because you loved his or her first so much? That’s what happened after I read Kristin Cashore’s Graceling in 2008. I loved it so much that I didn’t read any of the sequels although I purchased the books as soon as they came out. Now, seven years after Fire came out, I finally picked it up. Was I disappointed? No and yes. I liked it a great deal but I didn’t love it as much as I loved Graceling. 

Fire is the story of Fire, the last human monster. A young woman so beautiful that she makes men do crazy things. But that isn’t Fire’s only striking feature. Like every monster, she can manipulate people’s thoughts. Fire lives in the kingdom Dell. A kingdom that is threatened by war. At the beginning of the novel, Fire is summoned to the court. With her ability to manipulate and read minds, she should question spies and help king Nash and his siblings Clara and Brigan, to detect the plans of their enemies. Fire is reluctant at first. She doesn’t use her power against people’s will but then she accepts and leaves her best friend and lover, Archer, behind and follows Brigan and his troops back to the king’s city.

Fire is a story of treachery and war. Courage and cowardice. Hope and despair. It’s suspenseful and well-plotted but that wasn’t what I liked about it. I loved the images Kristin Cashore evokes with her words. The monsters are such a great idea. The animals have the most striking fur. Golden or green cats with purple dots. Colorful mice and rats. Even bugs. I would definitely love to have a monster cat. There are also very dangerous red, yellow, and green raptors. Fire’s hair is – of course – fire-red. Monster’s love eating monster meat that’s why Fire is always in danger of being attacked by raptors. But they also attack other humans and are a constant threat. I could see these creatures, see the world they inhabit. Cashore is really a evocative writer and it was a joy to “see” her world.

I loved Fire. She is strong and true to herself. There are two love stories, one that’s about to end and a new one and both show that Fire chooses freely. No man can chain her. Another trait I loved is her love for animals. There are some wonderful animal characters in this story. Especially Fire’s horses and one small dog. Fire is a positive character but that doesn’t mean, she doesn’t have a darker side. She’s complex and quite often it takes her a while to act because she has to explore her heart. Before she isn’t sure that she only does what she wants and thinks is right, she won’t budge. I loved that Fire’s monstrosity and beauty allowed Cashore to explore topics as different as gender, relationships between men and women, having children or not – and all the topics tied to this like contraception, abortion, sterilisation – and many others.

I’m not entirely sure that one can call Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue a trilogy. They are set in the same realm but one could easily read only one of them. They do stand alone. As far as I know, Bitterblue, does bring the two first together. There are a few open questions in Fire, or rather we suspect that we might see a few things taken up again, so I would assume, Bitterblue isn’t in the same way a standalone. Be it as it may, I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m pretty certain, it will not take me another seven years before I do so.

Have you read any of the three “Graceling Realm” books? Which is your favourite?