February 6th 2014 (UK)
Dane Washington and Billy D. couldn't be more different. Dane is clever and popular, but he's also a violent rebel. Billy D. has Down's syndrome, plays by the rules and hangs out with teachers in his lunch break.
But Dane and Billy have more in common than they think - both their fathers are missing.
They're going to have to suck up their differences and get on with helping each other. There are answers to be found.Powerful, funny, moving - the ultimate coming-of-age novel.
I was a little surprised at how much I properly liked Dead Ends. I knew that I would like it, of course, because books about friendship are kind of what I'm all about a lot of the time. Don't know if I've ever mentioned that (I've definitely mentioned that I'm always going on about friendships I LOVE THEM). But I read it while I was having a bit of a Tamora Pierce thing and I thought I was only in the mood for 90s YA fantasy. Reading Dead Ends brought a bit out of that now, though nothing can make me stop loving Tamora Pierce. Sorry, I've done that thing where I make the intro to the book I'm reviewing be more about anything but the actual book...
Dead Ends is, ultimately, the story of a really great friendship between these two boys: Dane Washington, who is a bully and has anger issues etc, and Billy D, a boy with Down's Syndrome who is looking for his dad through clues that he thinks he left him in an atlas of America. They make a deal - Billy D will try and keep Dane from getting any more detentions, and Dane helps Billy find his dad.
I loved both Dane and Billy D. Which was weird because I wasn't really expecting to like either of them that much. It might just be because I read a lot of books about female characters/narrated by them, but I always feel like I won't like books about male characters as much. Which is probably bad, but whatever. Anyway, yeah, it took me a while to get to like Dane because of the fact that he's such a different kind of character and his voice was different to what I'm used to - not because he's a boy, but because he's a bully. But I loved his growth as a character and his concerns about his anger and the way in which he expresses it as a result of his friendship with Billy D. And I liked Billy D a lot, too. He has Down's Syndrome, and it's obviously brought up a lot because it's an important part of who he is and how people see him, but it not all that he is. Also there's Seely, who is so great.
It took me a while to get into, because of aforementioned Tamora Pierce reasons, but I eventually I kind of forced myself to sit down for a bit and give it the time it deserved and by that point I didn't really want to stop reading. It's not a super fast-paced action-filled book by any means, but the pace was good and left a lot of room for fleshing out Dane and Billy D and their search for Billy's father. And I loved the way that the whole dad situation was played out, and the fact that the book didn't turn out to be about what I thought it was going to be about. It's a lovely portrayal of a complex friendship and difficult family issues and there are a few issues which are addressed throughout the book, but it never feels like it's being preachy or pretentious or like it's trying to shove the issues down your throat. It never feels forced, and it is genuinely moving in places as you find out things about Dane's and Billy's lives and the fact that not everything is as perfect or great as people make them out to be. The ending, too, was perfect for the book. Bittersweet, yes, but right.
Dead Ends was a book that took me a bit by surprise, but I ended up genuinely really liking it and, as I said before, FRIENDSHIPS. Also, ROAD TRIPS. What more do you really need to know? (And yes, as it says on the cover of the book, it really is perfect for fans of John Green and R J Palacio. It's like Paper Towns mixed with Wonder, but different and great and lovely.)