Dead Ends

288p. Bloomsbury. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-1-61963-080-2; ebook $12.99. ISBN 978-1-61963-081-9.
Gr 8 Up—High school junior Dane has anger management issues. Although he is an excellent student, he is one suspension away from expulsion, and he must spend time with his neighbor Billy D., a boy with Down syndrome, to work off his detentions. What begins as a community-service project slowly turns into real friendship. Both boys have single mothers; Billy wants to find his missing father, but Dane wants nothing to do with his. Billy is obsessed with an atlas full of riddles his father left him and is convinced that they point to his dad's whereabouts. He draws Dane and their friend Seely into solving the mystery, but as they get closer to Billy's father, a sad truth appears about why Billy's mother left the man. Although the story has anger, abuse, and bullying at its core, it never feels heavy-handed, possibly because of the well-realized relationships between characters. Dane and his mother are close and loving even as they drive each other crazy. Billy and Dane's friendship is based on their similarities: they are both fatherless, have tempers, and appreciate cute girls. Dane grows up over the course of the story; he realizes he needs help in controlling his anger and seeks it out. He also gains a girlfriend in Seely and treats her well. Lange writes realistically about teens with rough lives, and readers will believe in the friendships, feel Billy's pain of abandonment, and appreciate the honesty of the not-tied-up-with-a-bow ending.—Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT

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