A teen confronts his feelings about his father’s death, his new family, and the girl next door in this emotional young adult novel from critically-acclaimed author Kat Spears Dane Riley’s grasp on reality is slipping, and he’s not sure that he cares. While his mother has moved on after his father’s death, Dane desperately misses the man who made Dane feel okay to be himself. He can’t stand his mother’s boyfriend, or the boyfriend’s son, whose favorite pastime is tormenting Dane. Then there’s the girl next door: Dane can’t quite define their relationship, and he doesn’t know if he’s got the courage to leave the friend zone. An emotional novel about mental health, and dealing with grief and growing up, The Tragedy of Dane Riley is the story of a teenager looking to make sense of his feelings in the wake of tragedy, and finding the strength he needs to make life worth living.
The Tragedy of Dane RileyFeatured
As he navigates his life and does therapy, he begins to have some realizations about himself and the people around him that bring new perspectives.
What I loved: This was, at times, a challenging and emotional read - Dane is drowning in his grief and anger. His emotions and thoughts are central to the story, where we read in an almost stream-of-consciousness style. This really pulls the reader into his life and challenges. He is flawed and struggling, and I appreciated that with those elements, we also see the power of those around him to effect change in his life and reach him. Dane is relatively lucky in that he lives in a wealthy area, has a mother who takes him to therapy and friends and a teacher who are in his corner. These sorts of resources are always important to see.
Beyond these central themes, there were several others that I found thought-provoking within the story. For instance, his mother's boyfriend's son, who is a predator and takes advantage of girls, also bragging about abortions he has paid for. He feels like a caricature, but he conveys some themes around shaming, rape culture, and privilege that allows him to escape consequences.
There are also some intriguing conversations about reincarnation and the afterlife that Dane has as he processes his father's death. His and Ophelia's understandings and thoughts about romantic love were also both interesting and heart-breaking. This is definitely a read that makes you feel it all.
What left me wanting more: I wanted to see a bit more and find out what happens after the book ends. It does complete most of the threads of plot, but I always love to know more. The ending felt a little sudden to me, but maybe this was just because I was so wrapped up in Dane's emotions and life. I also wanted to see more about his suicidality and a little less stereotypes and stigmatizing of mental illness from main characters (around another character who has bipolar).
Final verdict: Immersive and emotional, THE TRAGEDY OF DANE RILEY is a YA contemporary that is sure to stick with the reader after the last page is turned. Recommend for fans of THE LUCKY ONES, WHEN THE STARS LEAD TO YOU, and EVERY OTHER WEEKEND.