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Dead Ends

Review

Dead Ends

Dane’s main hobby is beating up anyone who “provokes” him. He’ll willingly throw a punch at any kid at school, the only exceptions being mentally challenged kids and girls. Unfortunately, this habit isn’t particularly popular with the administrators at school, so Dane is only one fight away from being thrown out. Then, Dane meets Billy D, a younger boy with Down’s syndrome, who begs Dane to walk him home so he won’t get beat up. At first, Dane is reluctant, but the school loves the idea and says that if he helps out Billy D, they’ll be more lenient with his discipline record. Under these circumstances, Dane becomes acquainted with Billy D and the two slowly forge a friendship. It turns out that both boys have lost their fathers, and since Billy D desperately wants to find his, Dane is dragged into the search.

"DEAD ENDS was a superbly crafted novel with a delicate blend of humor and pain, that delved into the blurred lines that separate “good kids” from “bad kids."

The only clues leading to Billy D’s father are riddles he scrawled into an atlas. The answer to each riddle is a town with a bizarre name such as “Monkey’s Eyebrow” or “Sandwich.” Billy is convinced that his Dad is in one of these towns, and with Dane’s help, he slowly finds the answers to the clues.

The more Billy D talks about his dad, the more Dane starts to think about his own father. His mom has told him that his father wanted nothing to do with him as a baby, so Dane knows not to expect much. Regardless, there’s a part of him that needs to know his Dad’s identity and desperately craves some sort of closure.

Meanwhile, the search for Billy’s dad intensifies, and Dane begins to question the peculiar circumstances of Billy D’s life. Why has Billy moved so many times? Why is his mom purposely hiding him from his dad? Does his dad want to be found? Is he even worth finding in the first place?

DEAD ENDS is truly an excellent book! Each time I thought I had figured out the plot, the author inserted a new twist, which threw me off again. It was so thrilling to read a book where I was completely unable to predict the ending. The fact that one of the main characters had special needs seems to partly explain why the storyline was so much of a roller coaster ride. Each day in Billy D’s life is full of excitement and disappointment. His mood could swing from pure elation to utter despair in a matter of minutes. This vibrant personality definitely contributed to lots of the excitement of the novel.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of humor in the story. The protagonist, Dane, was incredibly witty in an edgy sarcastic way. Alternately, Billy D was humorous in his habit of questioning the meanings of confusing metaphors and sayings. Combined, these two different approaches to humor formed a perfect blend of innocence and dryness and made the book incredibly laugh-inducing.

I was also surprised to find myself growing attached to both Dane and Billy D as the novel progressed. Despite the fact that I have nothing in common with either a bully or a special needs kid, I nonetheless grew to genuinely care for their welfare. I think part of the appeal of the duo was that they were both achingly imperfect, but both had a good heart buried behind his exterior. Both were misunderstood by the world, and each really just needed a friend. As Billy and Dane learned to appreciate each other, I bonded with them as well.

DEAD ENDS was a superbly crafted novel with a delicate blend of humor and pain, that delved into the blurred lines that separate “good kids” from “bad kids.” It really made me stop and ponder whether I was judging the people around me fairly or making generalizations based on their reputation or appearance. DEAD ENDS is a deep but highly entertaining read that I would recommend to any teenager, male or female, with the slightest inclination to read a great book.

Reviewed by Jennifer B. on September 16, 2013

Dead Ends
by Erin Jade Lange

  • Publication Date: January 26, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Social Issues, Young Adult 14+
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
  • ISBN-10: 1619638010
  • ISBN-13: 9781619638013