Thursday, 24 July 2014

Dead Ends Review

I recently reviewed Dead Ends by Erin Lange for Movellas. Here it is!

‘Dead Ends’ by Erin Lange is a story about friendship, family and fathers. My alliteration skills astound even me. It might be suggested that Dane, Seely and Billy D are an unlikely friendship group because they are all so individual; The school fighter, the rock chick and the kid with Downs syndrome. But I think that that is a very 2-dimensional view of them as characters. Lange builds people not characters.

Billy D and Dane are brought together, essentially, because they live next door to each other. Thrown together by proximity, they become friends at first because they each have something the other wants and they stay friends because of their fathers.

Both of their dads are MIA, while their useful friend Seely has two. While we don’t ever meet Seely’s parents, Lange introduces a subtle discussion of same sex parenting. While other authors might have used Seely’s “struggle” on how she deals with other people’s views of her having two dads. Lange actually uses Dane as society’s mirror; he struggles at first with how to react. He teased Seely to cover up how uncomfortable he was, but eventually he realises the fact that while she has two dads, he and Billy D don’t have one between them and he cannot begrudge anyone that kind of luck. Dads are important, even the missing ones.

Seely often seems weak to me. Even though Lange has said that she was her favourite character to write. She is definitely a minor character and shows up at appropriate moments to supply a place to hang out/ a car/; a double helping of pseudo father figures. She is unique and clever, sassy and “different” from the other girls at school. I didn’t see her as a “strong” female character; I just thought she was a girl – a useful plot device that just happened to be female. I think she easily could have been a boy, but I expect Lange would be accused of the story being overly male-centric.

The true strong female characters are Dane and Billy D’s mothers. Fiercely protective, hardworking, single, fighters. I read them both as incredibly nuanced and brilliant women. I love that they both had flaws, a quick temper or a secretive nature. It was because of this that they became the most realistic of the characters. Lange can write strong female characters, but it seems, only if she’s not trying and just stumbles on accurate and poignant, normal women.

The comparison to John Green probably comes from the quirk. From riddles and treasure hunts to famous last words, from okay? Okay, to ‘it’s a metaphor’, John Green always has an underlying quirk to his writing. ‘Dead Ends’’ quirk is the funny place names and the riddle/test that Billy D’s dad apparently left for him. ‘Dead Ends’ is a maze and Billy D and Dean are looking for something: Where is Billy D’s dad, why did he leave, who is Dean’s and why are Billy and Dean who they are? So many questions and Lange answers them all.

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