Dane Washington is one suspension away from expulsion. In a high school full of “haves,” being a “have not” makes Dane feel like life is hurtling toward one big dead end. Billy D. spends his high school days in Special Ed and he’s not exactly a “have” himself. The biggest thing Billy’s missing? His dad. Billy is sure the riddles his father left in an atlas are really clues to finding him again and through a bizarre turn of events, he talks Dane into joining him on the search.
A bully and a boy with Down syndrome makes for an unlikely friendship, but together, they work through the clues, leading to unmarked towns and secrets of the past. But they’re all dead ends. Until the final clue . . . and a secret Billy shouldn’t have been keeping.
Find the book here on Goodreads.
In the book blooger/tuber community there is a discussion going around about comparing books , especially to other, popular offerings in their genre. I couldn’t believe that the cover of the book itself said, “From the novelist being compared to RJ Palacio and John Green.” Sure, it had a bit of a Paper Towns feel to it, but that could have just been the obsession with maps, you know? I think the main reason for the is that people are getting caught up in the more serious themes that are coming out in YA books today – and have come to the forefront of pop culture arguably, through John Green’s work – when perhaps it might just be a shift in the genre.
Anyway. Firstly, it was refreshing to read a book from the bully’s point of view rather than the victim’s. Not only was the perspective interesting, but the character and the motivations behind his actions were well thought out and documented. Another thing I enjoyed about Dane’s perspective was that he never felt older than his character. His thoughts were mostly of finding the money to buy a car, of girls, or of the ‘itch’ in his palms and the angst in his life that caused him to act out. I also liked that Billy was never really portrayed as the victim, which was good when it came to later, spoilery, parts of the story. The book did unfortunately exhibit one of my reading pet peeves; when certain phrases are overused. Billy’s eye were constantly ‘bulging’ and ‘widening’, for example. I understand that Billy didn’t always understand Dane’s words as he meant them, but there might be another way to show this than repeating the same phrases.
I’ve been reading a lot of YA lately and through this, I’m seeing a different kind of style emerge from this year’s YA offerings. They take the ‘fluff’ we might associate with the genre and replace it, sometimes completely, with hard hitting content. I’m getting a little tired of it, but I think that’s just due to a bit of an overload. It might be time to return to the fantasy genre for a while. Dead Ends was a quick and interesting read, but the plot felt somewhat tired in places. I like that that it wasn’t totally predictable, and in fact, several of my predictions as I was reading turned out to be completely wrong. It was what I would call a ‘solid’ read and definitely worth reading if the new style YA floats your boat.