REVIEW: The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster


In the Chicago suburb of North Shore, excellence is the status quo. In the Breakfast Club era of their parents, kids fit into one of many stereotypes. But in North Shore, the teens meet them all. It’s not sufficient to be smart OR athletic. You must be both. And you have to be the best. Best on the team. Super involved in extracurriculars. And planning and prepping for an Ivy League college all through high school.

The kids of North Shore deliver on all of these expectations. Their test scores and rates of college admission are among the best. This in turn draws in more (wealthy) families who can give their kids everything money can buy.

But North Shore has a hidden dark side. These kids who seem to have every advantage can’t always keep up with the pressure. Two kids committed suicide this summer alone. How does North Shore respond? A couple days for grieving and then back to the grind.

How long can they keep this up? What will it take to stop the cycle?


Wow. I was drawn to this story about high-achieving, uber-pressured kids who step up to help one another when they lose one of their own. But it took awhile to get to that part of the story. While part of me wondered when the story would really kick into gear, another part was okay with the wait because the characters were interesting. The slow build gave me time to get to know them and care about them.

By the final third of the story, I had a hard time setting the book down. I kept thinking about the characters and wondering how everything would shake out. The ending was perfect. I would go back and read the last few chapters again. Once some of the main characters owned and shared their true thoughts and feelings about their losses, I was entranced.

This book talks about difficult subjects – teen suicide, drug use, abuse, mental health – honestly and authentically. There’s a LOT here that would be great for group discussion with teens. I read this right after As You Wish which made for an interesting pairing. There are many stark differences between the books, but the pressure on teens is a consistent theme in both. I highly recommend this book for older teens, young adults and adults, especially those who work with and care about teens.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

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