Where You Are is definitely one of the best books I was fortunate enough to read this year and I have had the good fortune to have read my share of excellent books during that time. In May I read the author’s first novel Don’t Let Me Go which I loved and instantly became a big fan of hers. I checked goodreads to find out what else she had written and saw Where You Are listed as well as a soon-to-be-released new book, Just Between Us. I quickly added both to my To Read list and this month picked up a copy of Where You Are. I definitely needed to find something to enjoy since the last three books I had acquired had disappointed; two of them were so unsatisfactory I did not even bother to finish them which is highly unusual for me. Ooh la la! I could not have possibly chosen a better book to read this time.
The author bravely tackles the taboo subject of teacher/student intimacy and in the process of telling a fascinating story does a superb job of showing the reader that this is not necessarily the black and white issue that the news media and our cultural mores are so quick to paint. Robert Westfall is a high school senior whose world is crumbling around him. His father is in the final stage of a ten-year battle with brain cancer, his meddling, judgmental aunts and their children have taken up residence in the Westfall home and his self-centered boyfriend is totally unsupportive. Added to this is the fact that Robert and his father have never been close emotionally and now Robert is dealing with guilty feelings wishing his father would die soon so that he can get on with his life and be rid of the occupation of his home by his father’s siblings and their obnoxious offspring.
Andrew McNelis is Robert’s math teacher, a young attractive man in only his second year of teaching who is moved by the suffering his star pupil is enduring. He wants to do whatever he can to help Robert in the tough times he is experiencing and tries to give him the attention and support he feels he needs. Andrew also happens to be gay, making it a point to keep his sexual identity a secret at school although it’s not quite the secret he thinks it is. He has a two-year old daughter Kiki whom he absolutely adores and who was conceived with his long-time best friend Maya on a night that they had unplanned sex. As the story progresses Robert and Andrew begin spending more time together, frequently exchanging text messages and in the process becoming more and more attracted to each other. Andrew knows he is walking on a very thin tightrope and realizes he could jeopardize not only his career but his relationship with his daughter and possibly face time in jail if he crosses the line of acceptable teacher/student relationship. He is tormented trying to figure out what is the right thing to do, struggling with the collision course of wanting to be there for Robert, the growing sexual attraction he and Robert are feeling for one another, and his terror of where all of this may lead.
The storyline is told from the perspective of both Robert and Andrew so the reader has a clear image that this is not the case of a teacher using his power and position to force himself on an innocent child. After reading this book, I do know that I will probably never again hear a news story about a “scandalous” teacher/student relationship and be quick to make harsh judgments.
This is way too good a story to spoil by saying anything more about the plot. It is one of those books I just did not want to put down. One sure indication for me that I am truly enjoying a book is when I realize I have only sixty or so pages left to read and find myself wishing that the book was longer. So it was with this gem. All the characters both major and minor are totally believable and with the exceptions of Robert’s self-absorbed boyfriend Nic and Robert’s aunts all have admirable qualities as well as their share of flaws. Correction: on the other side of the scale from Nic and Robert’s aunts is Andrew’s daughter Kiki who is totally precious.
If you have not yet read this book, pick up a copy soon and treat yourself to a fantastic read. I cannot wait to now read the author’s recently published Just Between Us and can only hope that more books are in the works. Probably not since Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles so captivated me has one author so successfully entrapped me in her snare. I will at year’s end be posting here on my blog a list of the best books I read this year. Where You Are will certainly be on that short list.