Dead Ends

Overview

A riddle rarely makes sense the first time you hear it. The connection between Dane and Billy D doesn’t make sense the second time you hear it. But it’s a collection of riddles that solidifies their unusual friendship.

Dane is a bully with two rules: don’t hit girls and don’t hit special kids. Billy D has Down syndrome. When Dane doesn’t hit him, Billy sees a sign of friendship and reaches out for help. Billy is sure the riddles his missing father left in an atlas are really ...

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Dead Ends

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Overview

A riddle rarely makes sense the first time you hear it. The connection between Dane and Billy D doesn’t make sense the second time you hear it. But it’s a collection of riddles that solidifies their unusual friendship.

Dane is a bully with two rules: don’t hit girls and don’t hit special kids. Billy D has Down syndrome. When Dane doesn’t hit him, Billy sees a sign of friendship and reaches out for help. Billy is sure the riddles his missing father left in an atlas are really clues to finding him. Together, Billy and Dane piece them together, leading to unmarked towns and secrets of the past. But they’re all dead ends. Until the final clue . . . and a secret Billy shouldn’t have been keeping.

As a journalist, Erin Jade Lange is inspired by hot button issues like bullying, but it is her honest characters and breakneck plotting that make Dead Ends a must-read.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lange (Butter) explores the friendship that forms between a rage-filled 16-year-old named Dane and his new neighbor, Billy D., who has Down syndrome. Although Dane is a bully, he draws the line at picking on the disabled (“Standards, y’know?”), and when he’s offered a chance to avoid suspension by helping Billy out, he accepts it reluctantly. The boys bond over their missing fathers—Dane doesn’t know who his is, and Billy’s mother kicked his father out and moved across the country—and decide, with help from neighborhood skate punk Seely, to track down Billy’s father. Their investigation leads to road trips and revelations about their pasts. With confident storytelling, Lange ably develops Dane’s romance with Seely and his friendship with Billy, but a few details sour the story a bit. A subplot in which Dane’s working-class mother regularly wins the lottery (but refuses to cash her tickets) shouts of middle-class privilege; worse, Billy essentially exists to give Dane the epiphany he needs. The core story should keep readers interested if they can overlook those problems. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Sept.)
VOYA - Barbara Johnston
Academically, Dane is doing well but if he uses his fists again to silence his detractors, he will be expelled from school. Billy D, a special ed student, gloms onto Dane as they walk to school because bullies steer clear. Both are from homes with absentee fathers but only Billy remembers his. When Dane gets into trouble again, Billy is instrumental in the principal's decision to give Dane another chance by appointing him Billy's "ambassador." Billy insists this role includes fighting lessons and unraveling the scavenger-hunt clues to find his father. Dane eventually figures out that Billy's father beat up on Billy and the search terminates. But Billy innocently reveals his location in a phone call to his father and Billy's mother hastily packs for another move. Dane mourns the loss of his friend but he bonds with Seely and takes steps to stop using his fists. The author skillfully weaves a genuine relationship between two very different teens—quick-tempered Dane and Down syndrome-afflicted Billy. Both are likable. Sometimes peppered with expletives, their discourse is without guile and this honesty benefits the friendship. The high school setting is typical with its cliques and attitudes, but skateboarder Seely with her "Wite-out" hair stands out in appearance and maturity. Since the novel is a balanced blend of action (with unexpected twists) and teen romance and concerns, it will have wide appeal. If readers absorb the message that bullying and violence are dead ends, this novel may impact their lives. Reviewer: Barbara Johnston
Kirkus Reviews
Dane's anger management issues (he blows off steam beating up the rich kids who taunt him at his Columbia, Mo., high school) have caught up with him; to avoid expulsion and exile to the alternative school, he agrees to mentor Billy D., a student with Down syndrome. Both are outsiders, sons of financially challenged, single mothers. Billy is obsessed with finding his dad, but Dane tells himself he has no interest in finding his. Billy manipulates Dane into helping, saying his dad planted clues to his whereabouts in Billy's atlas. Soon Seely, a pretty skateboarder, joins the quest. Dane agrees to teach Billy to fight, but Billy's efforts to find his father go nowhere. Billy's exceptionally high-functioning, but he's selfish; Dane's adult intelligence and self-knowledge work against him. As he's not confused about what pushes his buttons, his violent episodes appear coldly deliberate. Far-fetched plot elements abound. Dane's mother barely supports them teaching yoga and Pilates yet won't cash in thousands of dollars in lottery winnings, instead turning the tickets into wall art. Despite ample evidence that Billy's less than truthful, Dane repeatedly jeopardizes his own future to accommodate Billy's peculiar demands and assertions without first confirming them. Lange's skillful writing holds readers' interest for most of the novel, but it can't rescue the flat ending. There's less here than meets the eye. (Fiction. 12 & up)
Children's Literature - Peg Glisson
Junior Dane is a good student academically, but he is not a student in good standing. He is one step away from expulsion because of his rage-filled bullying. Dane agrees to be an “ambassador” for his neighbor Billy D., who has Down syndrome, in order to avoid exile to the alternative school. (Dane’s standards prevent his bullying the disabled.) Billy is determined to find his absentee father and is convinced riddles in an atlas his father left behind will lead to him. While Dane proclaims not to care about who or where his father is, he is drawn into the search. At the same time, Dane is teaching Billy D. to fight so he can stand up for himself. Both efforts lead to disastrous consequences. It is tricky to write about main characters who are not be particularly likable, as is the case here. In spite of his Down syndrome diagnosis, Billy D. is quite high functioning and very manipulative; he is not above lying and blackmail to get what he wants. The tenuous friendship between Billy and Dane is at times believable and at other times incredulous. While we see some growth in Dane as a character, there is definitely no assurance at the story’s end that he has turned himself around. The school’s lack of involvement in Dane’s anger management issues (other than suspension) and both mothers’ idiosyncrasies are hard to swallow. In spite of these flaws, Billy D. and Dane are characters that stick with the reader; there is much to ponder about their actions, reactions, feelings, and the dead ends to which those lead. Reviewer: Peg Glisson; Ages 13 up.
School Library Journal
10/01/2013
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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781619630802
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 9/3/2013
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 358,260
  • Age range: 14 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Erin Jade Lange writes facts by day and fiction by night. As a journalist, she is inspired by current events and real-world issues and uses her writing to explore how those issues impact teenagers. She is an only child, which means she spent a lot of time entertaining herself as a kid. This required her to rely heavily on her own imagination, which is probably why she became a writer. Erin lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Butter was her debut novel.

www.butterslastmeal.com

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