Book Review: Dead Ends by Erin Jade Lange

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The unlikeliest of friendships makes for the most charming of stories in Dead Ends by Erin Jade Lange, when a teenage bully helps a boy with Down syndrome find his missing father.

dead endsDane 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.

As a journalist, Erin Jade Lange is inspired by hot button issues like bullying, but it is her honest characters and breakneck plotting that make Dead Ends a must-read.

Dead Ends could have so easily read like an after-school special — but instead, it paints a jarring, gritty, and sometimes humorous look at the lives of two unique individuals. She peels back the layers of one bully’s anger, and shows him to be more than just a stereotype — and the same goes for her endearing portrayal of Billy D.

Both Billy D. and Dane are characters — not caricatures. Their stories become intertwined as Dane struggles to fight his anger and not let his lot in life define him.

All the while, Lange shines a light on a hot-button subject for today’s teens (bullying) without preaching or laying down judgement. Instead, she shows a startling look at one aspect of this issue, and shows that it goes deeper than just a villainous bully antagonizing his victims. It’s a truly honest and significant message — that bullies do not come in a one-size-fits-all package.

Dead Ends is also a heartbreaking and sweet coming-of-age story that will resonate with teen readers. This charming contemporary YA novel is in stores now.

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