Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster-- Intense and Addicting and Sad

The Gatekeepers

North Shore, IL is a place you move to FOR the schools.  It's a place where the kids succeed, go to the Ivies, and get jobs that make them even richer than their parents are.  That's the plan anyway-- except that some kids can't take the intense pressure.  The teen suicide rate in North Shore is MUCH higher than your average town.... but nobody wants to talk about that.

Simone is the new girl-- and she does NOT fit in here.  She's not that concerned with grades and college-- her life is more about life experience than it is about the future.  Mallory is North Shore royalty.  She is everything that the parents at North Shore want their kids to be.  Stephen is a genius-- but he doesn't have any confidence in himself, and he's always looking over his shoulder for his over-bearing mother.

It soon becomes obvious that the town will do anything to sweep things under the rug-- can these teens find a way to wake up their parents??

This book contains a lot of things that I like.  Multiple perspectives, high school hierarchies, interesting characters, good writing.  I wasn't sure what to expect going into this book, but it was so much MORE than what I thought it was going to be.

North Shore was an interesting town to read about.  98% of the kids at North Shore go to college-- their goal is 100%.  How is this a thing????  I hope that part is 100% fiction because it ENRAGED me.  Who are these people to say that all kids have to go to college or they're failures?  College is not the be all end all of life.  I'm not saying people shouldn't go, but they sure as shit shouldn't if they don't know what they want to do, or if they just don't want to.

The problem with this town is that there is no room for anything but status quo-- and status quo here is SCARY.  It's Ivy League acceptance, it's 999 clubs and state championship winning sports, it's perfect bodies and designer clothes.  AND it's being oblivious that all this is causing kids to kill themselves rather than disappoint.

The actual plot of the book follows Simone- who gets swallowed by the PERFECTION beast and turns from a hippie- go where the wind takes her kind of gal, to someone who obsesses over test scores.  Mallory was also a standout-- she's the North Shore standard, and then she loses a close friend to the pressure and questions everything.

I flew through this 450-page book because of the intense NEED TO KNOW feelings it gave me.  But there were a few minor things that stopped me from full-blown obsession.  There was some teen-talk that was #annoying (like using hashtags while talking), and some HEA stuff that I didn't feel was that realistic to the situation.  Also, I know this is based on a true story, and I appreciate the research that the author clearly did, but I felt like some of the statistics and educational information could be heavy-handed and pushy at times.

OVERALL: I really enjoyed this and could see a lot of teens relating to the pressure the characters were under.  I felt like this book was able to both tell a story AND shine a light on a real-life situation in a coherent way.  It will suck you in with the character's stories, but then show you what can happen when teens are under too much pressure from all angles.  I totally recommend.

Date Published: October 10, 2017
How I got this book: Thanks to Harlequin Teen for sending me an advanced copy to read and honestly review.
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Add it to your To-Read List!!

My Rating: 4/5

Character: Kent Mathers & Stephen Cho
Book: Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

  • They would relate to Yuri's child prodigy and science background.


  1. I almost read this one, but I have gotten away from YA lately, it just doesnt’ appeal to me like it used to. I know it’s funny, but I totally get annoyed like you did with the teen speak, but I have to remember the target audience probably loves it.

    1. I don't mind teen talk if it's believable-- I just have a hard time believing teens talk like the Mallory character in this book. It sounded more like an adult trying (and failing) to guess how teens are talking now. Other than that, the book was fab. I know what you mean about YA not appealing to you as much-- I feel like that sometimes too, but then I try to read Adult books and there's always SOMETHING in them that makes me miss YA.

  2. This sounds like something I might enjoy but the girth scares me. I tend to shy away from larger books because I always feel like they'll take so long to read them--but it sounds like I may miss out if I don't pick this up. Nice review!

    1. I know what you mean-- I tend to stay away from the longer books too!! This one hooked me and felt like a 300 pager since I read it so fast.

  3. Gosh, I must have totally missed this when it came out. And yeah, I have teenagers and they do not talk like that. Or if they do, it's ironically.
    Jen Ryland Reviews

    1. Yeah, I didn't hear a lot about this book. Harlequin didn't seem to hype it very much-- maybe because they are more into romance?? Anyway, THANK YOU. I knew teens didn't talk like that.