Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dead Ends by Erin Jade Lange

Dane Washington is a loner with a tendency to hit people.  He would have been kicked out of school long ago if it wasn't for his good grades. One day on his way to school, Dane meets Billy D., a boy with Down Syndrome.  Somehow, Billy D. manages to worm his way into Dane's life, and convinces Dane to help him find his father.

Dane's mother had him when she was very young, and his father was never in the picture.  Dane doesn't know who he is, and the times he's tried to ask about him, his mother says it's for the best if he doesn't know.  Perhaps it's Dane's lack of father that allows Billy D. to feel comfortable with him.  That, and the fact that almost everyone in school leaves Dane alone, and Billy D. gets picked on a lot.  Billy D. says that if Dane helps him find his father, he'll help Dane find his father too, but Dane isn't interested in looking for his dad, or so he claims.

Billy D. has an atlas that was his fathers.  In the atlas are written riddles, and Billy D. is convinced that the riddles will lead him to his father.  Billy D. has story after story about the things he and has dad did together, and how great he is.  Dane can't help but wonder, if Billy D.'s dad is so great, why isn't he here now, with his son?  What if he doesn't want to be found?

Dane has anger problems.  He and his mom don't have much.  He sees himself as a "have not" in a world of "haves."  When Dane gets angry or frustrated, the only thing that makes him feel better is to hit people.  Another constant source of frustration is the fact that his mom constantly wins the lottery (usually small stuff) but never cashes in any of the tickets.  They could have so much more, but his mother refuses.

Despite Dane's anger issues, he was a sympathetic character from the very beginning.  I wanted things to work out for him.  I wanted him to make it through school and go to college and get away.  I was annoyed at Billy D. who kept pulling him back into trying to find his dad regardless of what the consequences for Dean might be.  Dean does a lot for Billy D., at first because it makes him look good to the school principal, but then because he realizes Billy D. has become his friend, and he wants to look out for him.  Billy D., it turns out, is very good at manipulating Dean.  Dean does some things that he knows will have serious consequences because he wants to help his friend.

Billy D. isn't telling Dane the whole truth about his father.  Not by a half.  It's hard for Dane to contain his anger when he realizes the perfect man Billy D. has been talking about for months is far from perfect.

Dead Ends comes out September 3, 2013.

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