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  • Writer's pictureheidigrantbader

Tower of Truth: Review of Billy Lemonade by Sarah J. Maxwell

Updated: Feb 8, 2022

Billy Lemonade is the story of two lost souls, whose worlds are colliding, as they resist their mutual destinies. If that sounds as dramatic as a teenage girl, meet Jane. Living with her alcoholic mother, ignored at school, her only friend is Billy Lemonade nick-named as such by the school bullies. The pace of their budding friendship moves with the speed of youth, but as the dire nature of their lives unfolds, it becomes evident that time holds a different meaning for the characters. Billy inhabits a nightmarish existence with his abusive stepfather, a disgusting brute of a man with no redeeming qualities. While Jane longs for her mother to emerge from her drunken haze brought on by an experience Jane refuses to discuss with her new friend. The two grapple not only with their home life but school, where Jane feels friendless and ignored, and experiences the uncertainty of teenaged emotions, with sharp jealousy emerging when she thinks another girl might possess Billy’s heart.

The author has deftly captured the inner turmoil of a teenage girl, prone to jealousy, quick to react. Their confined world may spur a reader to want more depth from Jane’s mother, or fancy Rachel to be more receptive to friendship. But as the story develops the final twists and turns with their smattering of supernatural elements are simple yet satisfying.

The Lemonade Tower, situated in Billy’s attic bedroom, symbolizes the impermanence of his reality. Literally, beneath the tower lies his secrets, held in newspaper clippings. “I marveled at the tower, balanced on a pile of newspapers, carefully constructed using lids as supports. Bottles squashed flat, others standing on end, the rest cut in half. There must have been a hundred or more.” Inevitably the tower comes crashing down but the author’s thoughtfully composed story picks up all the pieces at the end. The characters’ futures are inescapable but as they journey toward acceptance, the readers’ approval will follow.

Billy Lemonade will stay lingering with the reader long after the story ends and has a timeless quality securing it as a future classic for Young Adult literature.

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