I do not know what prompted me to download an advance copy of this book via NetGalley but I did. It was published in august of 2018, and a surprisingly great read. I say surprising because I went in blind and the beginning of the story was interesting but I did not realise I would find so much to like in it!
Warning: This is a slightly longer review than usual.
This is a story of a public school in Texas and their extremely hard year. Hard, not just for the students but for the teachers and the administrative board. There is a new publicity loving superintendent on board, someone with ties to money involved elsewhere in the education ‘industry’. I do not have any direct involvement with teaching other than having been a student myself but hardly anyone would deny that a good teacher with the zeal to inspire their students are rare and need to be commended. In this book ordinary people try to do the best they know how to while facing hurdles that so many teachers out there must face on a daily basis.
I am normally put off by swearing in books, but I could ignore the instances that they occur here! The story is narrated by multiple people, and this might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it certainly was mine. The cast and my feelings about them goes something like this.
- Lena is an English teacher by day and a poet every other time, I may not have understood her poetry but the emotion behind them were pretty clear. She may seem smart but she does make some mistakes in her personal life and although her year may not be full of triumphs, there are many learning moments.
- Hernan is Lena’s closest friend in school. They hang out at happy hour and try to make the other laugh. He was my favourite character because of the interesting variations between his feelings for Lena, his excitement in teaching and his green thumb as well as the brief glimpse of his family.
- Maybelline is not a person you can like, she is strict and by the book to the point of annoyance. She does not have any friends around her but even she can surprise you when she finally draws the line.
- Kaytee Mahoney is a type of idealist, young and brimming with things she wants to do. She wants to make a difference and her enthusiasm may get tempered in the year that they have but it does not get vanquished. She was a study of contrasts as she is always analysing her surroundings, events and herself.
- Coach Ray is a typical coach who does not take time out to second guess his role and his behaviour. Situations get so complicated that even he is forced to reassess his life.
- Last but not the least we have the well-meaning Principal, Dr. Miguel Barrios who tries his hardest to make the best of a terrible situation.
- There are so many others who contribute their bit to the entire story but we do not have the privilege of listening to their private thoughts.
When the year begins the school is slowly asked to follow an increasing number of slogans and pithy targets which may not be practical in reality. The epilogue was kind of funny and made my reading experience feel complete. Although on the surface this story is not really my usual fare, I enjoyed the people, flaws and all trying to keep afloat amongst bureaucracy. I felt both weary and angry by the end. This may be a story of a school based in the US but I am sure all around the world there must be many similar cases and that does not feel like a very happy thought. Overall I recommend this book to anyone who found all the above interesting.
If you have read the book, I would love to hear your take on it!
Affiliate link to purchase the book: Book Depository