Nell worships her older sister, Layla. They’re one unit, intertwined: Nellayla. As Nell and her best friend, Felix, start their freshman year in high school, on Layla’s turf, there’s so much Nell looks forward to: Joining Layla on the varsity soccer team. Parties. Boys. Adventures.
But the year takes a very different turn.
Layla is changing, withdrawing. She’s hiding something, and when Nell discovers what it is, and the consequences it might have, she struggles. She wants to support Layla, to be her confidante, to be the good sister she’s always been. But with so much at stake, what secrets should she keep? What lies should she tell?
I saw the e-mail from NetGalley about this book, checked out the mini-summary in the e-mail, read the first line of the blurb -Nell knows a secret about her perfect, beautiful sister Layla. If she tells, it could blow their world apart. - and I was basically like, “YES, read now, send to Kindle.” So other than that very vague line and little else, I had no idea what I was getting into, and I liked that.
I loved Nell’s voice. She was pretty unique and I liked her connection to her sister, though time and time again, I got the sense that it wasn’t completely mutual, or that maybe it had been in the past, but wasn’t anymore. Because of that, I kept wanting to see more of the bond that Nell felt she had with her sister, since I felt like we as readers didn’t see it very often. I’m sure some of that was the usual “little sister being annoying” thing, but since the story was being told from Nell’s point of view, it was hard for me to tell which was which. Regardless, I did like their relationship, or at least, Nell’s view of it. I’m a twin and I kept reading Nell and Layla as twins, even though they weren’t, but they had a relationship that made me feel like they were. I loved that the book read as her talking to her sister, referring to Layla as “you” and little touches like asking if she remembered certain details or events.
I loved the way Nell’s relationship with Felix was introduced, and I loved his role as her best friend. I liked that Nell and Layla’s parents were much more present in the novel than parents are in a lot of other YA, despite being so wrapped up in their own lives that they didn’t seem to be aware of what was going on with their children.
There is also an implied comparison between the Golden sisters and the Creed brothers, two teenage brothers who die before the time the story begins, which I liked the idea of in theory, but I’m not sure I liked the execution. Nell imagines the ghosts of these two brothers and sees them around her and talks to them, but I didn’t get the impression that she was close to them when they were alive, so it didn’t really make sense to me that Nell interacted with them so much in her head after they’d died. I didn’t feel like it was necessary to the story and didn’t understand why Nell couldn’t come to the conclusions she reached in interacting with them on her own. I guess she was doing that on her own, in a way, since she’s not actually speaking to their ghosts, but I didn’t like the way it was portrayed. It felt, to me, like it took away that those choices and thoughts were Nell’s and not someone else’s.
I found the open ending to be fairly frustrating. I was sitting there, reading away, loving this book, then I saw the Kindle was at 96% and I was like, oh no, and then I saw it was at 99%, and I was like, OH NO, but overall, I was satisfied with this read and I really enjoyed it, seeing that I read it in one sitting, which is pretty rare for me. Yes, it’s a short, fast read, but that’s not a bad thing. I liked that despite the other things going on in the novel, the relationship between the two sisters was the main focus, and the book never lost sight of that. A definite thumbs-up from me!
I was pre-approved for this title by the publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars