Saturday, February 10, 2018

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Gatekeepers, by Jen Lancaster {ends 2/18}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“We breed excellence here at North Shore High School.”

I nod instead of saying anything, because how do I even respond to a statement like that?

I also nodded when Vice Principal Torres said the same thing as he welcomed me to the school. He clasped my hand and nearly crushed it in a crippling shake. Then my guidance counselor, Mr. Gorton, went for the conversational trifecta. WTF? Are they all working from the same script?

And how does one breed excellence here, anyway?

In a lab? In a test tube? Or is it more like in a barn?

This book was a heavy read, but that’s what the author intended. The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster (usually a humor writer) is her examination of 2012 in Lake Forest, Illinois, by recreating some of the community’s experiences in a fiction world. That year, three high school students ended their lives by stepping in front of commuter trains. The Gatekeepers puts us in the hearts and minds of who the students at the high school could have been, and how they were each affected by the multiple teen suicides in their community.

Official synopsis: 

Book Review: The Gatekeepers, by Jen Lancaster
"How could we know that forever could end at seventeen?"

Anyone passing through North Shore, Illinois, would think it was the most picture-perfect place ever, with all the lakefront mansions and manicured hedges and iron gates. No one talks about the fact that the brilliant, talented kids in town have a terrible history of throwing themselves in front of commuter trains.

Meet Simone, the bohemian transfer student from London, who is thrust into the strange new reality of an American high school; Mallory, the hypercompetitive queen bee; and Stephen, the first-generation genius who struggles with crippling self-doubt. Each one is shocked when a popular classmate takes his own life…except not too shocked. It's happened before. With so many students facing their own demons, can they find a way to save each other—as well as themselves?

Admittedly, this was a hard book for me to read. Having lost a few people to suicide in my life, I definitely recognized some of the teen’s emotions and responses, and they weren’t fun. I feel the author’s depiction of these situations as real in her fiction were very believable.

The characters became very likable. Mallory started out a little tiring, but as you heard more of her thoughts and reactions, she grew to be a strong, positive friend to many in the school. Kids who weren’t as well-liked in the school were eventually endearing as their inner insecurities and reasoning for how they behaved became clear.

Overall, this is a hard book to recommend to a stranger. I loved the author’s style, and would probably enjoy her memoirs or humor for which she is popular. The Gatekeepers is a highly emotional and well told book of a very difficult subject. I’d give it 4.5 stars out of 5, but it’s not for everyone.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a survivor living in a house full of snacks because she grocery shops when hungry. She’s been blogging in and around SE Michigan since March 2002 at


One of my lucky readers will win a hardcover copy of The Gatekeepers!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, February 18th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, otherwise an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Hardcover copy of The Gatekeepers


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