Title: The Gatekeepers

Author: Jen Lancaster

Pages: 448 Pages

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

The Blurb

“How could we know that forever could end at seventeen?”

Anyone passing through North Shore, Illinois, would think it was the most picture-perfect place ever, with all the lakefront mansions and manicured hedges and iron gates. No one talks about the fact that the brilliant, talented kids in town have a terrible history of throwing themselves in front of commuter trains.

Meet Simone, the bohemian transfer student from London, who is thrust into the strange new reality of an American high school; Mallory, the hypercompetitive queen bee; and Stephen, the first-generation genius who struggles with crippling self-doubt. Each one is shocked when a popular classmate takes his own life…except not too shocked. It’s happened before. With so many students facing their own demons, can they find a way to save each other—as well as themselves?

The Review

I have read a lot of YA novels – a lot so it always takes me by surprise when a book comes along and completely blows me away. This – The Gatekeepers – is my first 5 Star read of 2019.

It is the story of an idyllic town in middle America. The houses are perfect, the neighbours keep their lawns trimmed to a certain height, and the local high school has the best academic record around. Equally – and less talked about – is how it also has an unusually high suicide rate amongst its teenage population.

Told from multi-perspective, The Gatekeepers shows you just how much pressure teenagers are under to try and attain a level of perfection that doesn’t exist. It comes from either the school pressure, parental pressure or even just the pressure they put on themselves.

I work in a high school and the one thing that is not taught on the curriculum is how to fail and how failing isn’t the end of the world. But it is all ok because they teach you the hypotenuse of an angle. That’s…useful?

I genuinely loved this story. It was heartbreaking and it had me in tears and I will admit I had a severe headache at the end – too much emotion plus the inability to put the book down led to said headache – but it was worth it.

I don’t know anyone else who has read this book which is a shame because this is a book that needs to be shouted about. It should be in every school library and it deserves a higher place on the curriculum than the hypotenuse of an angle.

The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster is available now.

For more information regarding Jen Lancaster (@altgeldshrugged) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Harlequin Teen (@HarlequinBooks) please visit www.harlequin.com.

The Blurb

A moving, poignant, compelling YA debut, as a 15-year-old boy struggles to understand his best friend’s suicide through the list of songs he leaves behind.

Here’s what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs, and a suicide note: For Sam – listen and you’ll understand.

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

Part mystery, part love story, and part coming-of-age tale in the vein of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Playlist for the Dead is an honest and gut-wrenching first novel about loss, rage, what it feels like to outgrow a friendship that’s always defined you – and the struggle to redefine yourself.

The Review

Ok, I have spoken before on LisaTalksAbout.com about the strange trend in YA fiction of writing about suicide; this is the topic of Michelle Falkoff’s debut novel Playlist for the Dead. Unlike other novels that have chosen this subject matter, the actual suicide doesn’t play that big a role. It is more about  the devastation for those who are left to pick up the pieces.

In Playlist for the Dead, Sam finds his best friend Hayden, dead. It is confirmed as suicide but there is nothing to indicate why except for a memory stick with a playlist on left to Sam saying that it should make him understand. However, Sam harbours a lot of guilt over Hayden’s death. The night before they had argued and now Sam feels responsible. However, slowly he realises that other people feel the same. A mystery over who is actually responsible for his death starts to unravel and Sam knows that he has to keep hunting for the reason that Hayden killed himself.

Playlist for the Dead is a damn good YA novel; one that I read in one sitting. Michelle Falkoff deals with the different emotions felt – sadness, anger, confusion etc – with sensitivity. She focuses on those that are left to deal with death rather than glorifying the act of suicide. Playlist for the Dead is one of the better YA Fiction novels I have read this year.

Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff is available now.

Follow Michelle Falkoff (@MichelleFalkoff) on Twitter.