Dead Ends by Erin Lange: A review

Dead Ends by Erin Lange: A reviewDead Ends by Erin Lange
on February 2014
Pages: 384
Format: ARC

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Dane and Billy D couldn't be more different.

Dane is clever and popular, but he's also a violent rebel.
Billy D has Down Syndrome, plays by the rles and hangs out with teachers in his lunch break.

But Billy D and Dane have more in common than they think - both their fathers are missing. Maybe they'll just have to suck up their differences and get on with helping each other.

A powerful and funny coming-of-age novel about an incredible friendship. 

Two boys who walk alone until they find each other… 

Dane has a lot of resentment bottled up inside him. There’s him not having a dad, being poor and having a mother who would rather frame winning instant scratchie tickets rather than cash them in and not have him wonder if they will be able to make rent that month. When Billy D attached himself to Dane’s side, it’s one more thing to resent. That is until Billy D manages to get under Dane’s skin and they become friends without Dane even realizing it.

This is a book about friendship. About two vastly different people coming together and making the world a better place for each other. But it is also about family. Dane’s never known who his father was and his mother isn’t forthcoming on the subject. Billy D’s father was Billy’s hero until one day and he wasn’t there any more. Deciding to do everything he can and all the resources utilize (including Dane), Billy is determined to find his dad. The two boys bring out the best in each other. Dane is a heartbeat away from being expelled because his fists act before his brain can think better of it. Billy D is the kid who doesn’t quite fit in with others. People rarely take the time to look below the surface and both boys are evidence that there is often more to someone than just the stereotype they first seem to adhere to.

The biggest strength of this novel is its characters. Dane is angry and misunderstood. He may at first be considered to be a brute but he had a moral code. He’s bright and loves his mother but to the outside world he comes across as a bully. He is not the type of character I normally like. But I really enjoyed how Ms. Lange developed him over the novel. Brilliant student with impulse control issues – within this book, it really works. And I loved how Billy D was written. So often in novels with characters who are intellectually and/or physically different from the norm frustrate me because I feel they are not an accurate portrayal of how these people are in real life. But reading Dead Ends, I thought Ms. Lange wrote Billy in a way which made him feel right. Billy Drum is high functioning and whilst he may not be on par with other people his age – he is not an idiot. I really admired how this came across.

This book is charming and there are a lot of great things going on. The town names and riddles, the multiple Karate Kid references as well as the dynamics between all the different kinds of relationships – be it romantic, friendship, parental or even the teacher/student interactions. Dead Ends is such an enjoyable read. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to put it down. Filled with humour, intelligent and beautiful writing and characters which you will find yourself rooting for despite the odds, Dead Ends is a poignant and moving read about two outsiders who find each other and a place where they finally fit in.


I won this book from Allen & Unwin via Goodreads First Reads


  1. This is such an interesting and relevant book, Kate. I have not read a single book where a character has down syndrome, so good on you for diversifying.

    I’ll be on the look-out for this book on my side of the world.

  2. I won a copy of Goodreads as well, haven’t got around it reading it yet though. It sounds brilliant. I love quirky and offbeat stories that spread such a positive message. The fact that you’ve rated it so highly, I’m pushing it up on my to read list. Brilliant review Kate, thanks for sharing.

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