Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster

Harlequin Teen, 2017

North Shore Illinois is picture perfect. Expansive lakefront properties and even neighborhoods have immaculate yards, successful professionals and little to no crime .  North Shore High School is a reflection of that perfection.  Most of the seniors (merit scholars are common) who graduate usually go on to Ivy League colleges.  Families raise their children to be perfect candidates for a successful future.

But perfection comes at a cost.

Mallory knows this all too well.  She's reminded every time she steps into her house and her mother constantaly barrages her about her weight, her grades, her boyfriend, and her applications for early admissions into university.

Liam, NSHS's golden boy and Mallory's boyfriend has seen the cost of perfection.  It's one he's also hiding from others perfectly until his secret overcomes him

Kent and Stephen consider themselves the geek squad.  Both are looking at early admission to MIT.  They both have mothers who hover over everything they do, from what they wear, to what extra-curriculars they're involved in to their grades.

Owen defies the stereotype.  He's the one that enjoys hanging outside, not worrying about tomorrow and passionate about videography.  But he sees the facade and is hit the worst by the ideology of perfection.

Braden's run with perfection may cost him more than he thought.  

Simone is the new girl in town, with successful artists as parents.  She has lived life how she's wanted to.  She wears beads on her wrists, and doesn't look like the other students.  But that's okay because she's going on a gap year after graduation.  Little does she know she's already succumbing to the perfection

What is the cost?  It's something parents can't see or feel, but their children do all too well.  The stress they put on kids may be intended as good, but comes out in ugly ways.  Everyone is still reeling over the deaths of two of NSHS’s students.


That’s also something that makes North Shore different.  The amount of teen suicides far surpasses the national average in just their city’s boundaries.  Work harder, study more, get involved, be a merit scholar, early admissions, look perfect in everything you own or are….it is taking a toll on the community and the students.  Not all of them will be strong enough to overcome and the ones that do decide to do something about it.

They become Gatekeepers.  They are there to guard against the constant stress to obtain perfection and the cost it incurs. 

This novel is inspired from the 2012 incidents of multiple teen suicides in Forest Park, Illinois.   Lancaster offers a glimpse into the lives of those from wealthy families that many teens think have it all, are it all, and wish they could have it too.  Lancaster pulls readers into the intricate and secret details of each of these kids families and how every one of them could succumb to seeing suicide as the only answer.  The topic of suicide is difficult at best in a fictional setting.  Some may embrace this novel while others find it trite and unworthy of the topic.  And although this subject is tough, I found that Lancaster does an excellent job of building intensity from every character so the reader is taking turns down different outcomes and avenues in a myriad of ways.  Recommended for YA.  

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