Title: Where You Are by J.H. Trumble
Genre: Contemporary, M/M
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B
Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley
Robert Westfall’s life is falling apart–everywhere but in math class. That’s the one place where problems always have a solution. But in the world beyond high school, his father is terminally ill, his mother is squabbling with his interfering aunts, his boyfriend is unsupportive, and the career path that’s been planned for him feels less appealing by the day.
Robert’s math teacher, Andrew McNelis, watches his best student floundering, concerned but wary of crossing the line between professional and personal. Gradually, Andrew becomes Robert’s friend, then his confidante. As the year progresses, their relationship–in school and out of it–deepens and changes. And as hard as he tries to resist, Andrew knows that he and Robert are edging into territory that holds incalculable risks for both of them.
J.H. Trumble, author of the acclaimed Don’t Let Me Go, explores a controversial subject with extraordinary sensitivity and grace, creating a deeply human and honest story of love, longing, and unexpected connection.
J.H. Trumble’s Where You Are tackles the delicate and controversial topic of a romance between a teacher and his student in a sensitive and thought-provoking manner. The student is of legal age in the state where the story takes place, and the teacher is seven years his senior. Both of these points make Where You Are easier to read, but it does not lessen the ethical questions raised by their relationship.
Robert Westfall’s home life is anything but normal. His father’s ten year battle with cancer has become terminal and his death is now imminent. Robert’s and his father’s relationship is distant and Robert is struggling to reconcile his lack of emotion at his father’s impending death. Robert is close to his mother, but there is a great deal of tension and conflict between the extended members of his father’s family which further complicates an already difficult situation. With his boyfriend (and I use that term very loosely) offering Robert absolutely no support, Robert has no one to turn to and his casual relationship with his Calculus teacher Andrew McNelis becomes his lifeline.
Andrew McNelis is a relatively new teacher who is young and fairly well liked. Although he has always been gay, a drunken night with his best friend Maya resulted in a unplanned pregnancy and marriage. Now divorced, they share custody of their two year old daughter and have managed to stay on relatively friendly terms. Andrew’s relationship with his college boyfriend ended badly and he still carries the emotional scars. Andrew knows the risks involved with crossing the student/teacher line, but it is his genuine empathy for Robert’s situation that allows him to take that first step over it.
The relationship between Andrew and Robert begins casually and innocently enough. Andrew offers Robert a much needed shoulder to lean on and someone to talk to during a very trying time in his life. They gradually slide into a friendship and Andrew wrestles with the progression of their relationship. Their feelings eventually escalate into romantic ones and neither Andrew nor Robert can ignore the intense attraction between them. Their relationship soon takes on an almost obsessive quality as they begin taking risks to be together and it is a just a matter of time before their romance is exposed.
Where You Are is an intense novel that is sometimes difficult to read. It seems like Robert is the more mature of the two but Andrew clearly knows he is crossing into forbidden territory. Andrew cannot keep his resolve to stay away from Robert and their relationship does eventually become physical as well as emotional. Their sex scenes are only hinted at and take place behind closed doors.
Where You Are is quite compelling and impossible to put down. J.H. Trumble’s writing is superb and so is her character development. The emotions are authentic and the way the relationship evolves is realistic. The story is told from both Robert and Andrew’s perspectives and while I could clearly see both sides, I am still left with the uncomfortable feeling that Robert’s vulnerability took the relationship in a direction it should never have gone.
Although Where You Are took me a little out of my comfort zone, I am glad that I read it. I like a novel that makes me think and consider things from a different angle.
J.H. Trumble is an incredibly talented writer that I look forward to reading in the future.