George Woodbury is a local teacher in at Avalon Prep School and local hero. He would be Teacher of the Year for the next ten years for stopping a shooter at the school, saving hundreds of children. But when he starts to receive cryptic notes, no one can foresee the whirlwind which will determine his ultimate fate. George Woodbury, accused of sexual impropriety of four high school students, is on trial. Not only in the courts but in his family and community of Avalon Hills. A place not used to scandal.
Many people would agree that the storyline is familiar.
A portrayal of privilege in the setting of a sexual allegation. It is a common theme in the news, film, and books. You do not have to search far to find this type of story, but Zoe Whittall gives it a new look through her talented writing.
The Best Kind of People is a lyrically written novel, words that describe all senses in poetic phrases. Whittall makes writing a dark subject an art form. The opening prologue held me captive; a perfect flirt to the dramatic story that will unfold. When the author creates a scene, it feels present, meshing emotions with senses. I enjoyed the words, but some details are perhaps not essential to the story’s ambiance; a black coat placed on a chair, slipping from the chair to the floor and then picked up by Sadie. Although this creates a vivid image, the abundance of words can be unwieldy. Similarly, the character development by Whittall is elaborate with detail history but often dwells more on the past lives of the family leading to slow movement of the story. But this may be a reflection of my need for a faster pace story.
The story is much more than a man facing sexual allegation, but also a family’s life in the balance. The story unfolds from the points of view of Joan, Sadie, and Andrew. Joan is a wife who knows her husband is innocent. After all, he is a beloved professor of science and family man. But as the family life falls under scrutiny, a shadow of doubt starts to creep into Joan’s mind and all around her. Soon she unravels in a way that brings you to emotion. Saide, a popular student at Avalon Prep school, has everything a girl could want. She is an honor student and has the promise of an ivy league future. Once rallying by her father’s side, she is conflicted by her need to be loyal and the need for the truth. She unleashes her teenage rage and sadness, as we see her trying to make sense of her place in her relationships in her family and at school. The cruelty of quick judgments of the young high schoolers is cringe-worthy. Andrew, the son helps his father through the legal battle wearing a badge of loyalty while having an internal breakdown. We see him grappling with his past in the face of the future.
With all the devastation left behind, the reader has doubts about George’s innocence and also his guilt. As the story progresses, the presumption of guilt before innocence takes over all the scenes. The small town ostracises the entire family. But boundaries crossed everywhere, and the hypocritical blind eye turns. And you realize their secrets are everywhere.
Overall, I enjoyed the writing of the novel, but it would be brilliant with prudent choice of details and an audit of words. At the 75% mark I was captivated, and I could not put the story down. I would recommend The Best Kind of People.
Thank you, NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.