Where You Are
A young teacher and a smitten high school student fail to resist their mutual attraction for each other in "Where You Are," author J.H. Trumble’s poignant novel that examines the always controversial subject of romantic relationships between educators and their pupils.
In the author’s impressive debut, "Don’t Let Me Go," a touching love story about two young men struggling with a long distance relationship, Trumble presented an accurate, painstakingly honestly portrayal of a gay teen romance, riddled with jealousy, boundless sexual energy and unbridled passion. Those all-consuming feelings are at play again in "Where You Are," however, the two main characters struck by Cupid’s arrow surrender to their heart’s desire, despite the potential ramifications.
Math teacher Andrew McNelis, at the ripe old age of 24, is already the divorced father of a two-year-old, yet he’s never had a serious boyfriend. Robert Westfall, an openly gay senior with a boyfriend--in theory more than in practice, has a terminally ill father at home, along with two overbearing aunts, and a mother just barely holding it all together. When Andrew takes notice of the effect Robert’s situation at home is having on his grades, he agrees to make extra time for him outside of class. They become fast friends and soon thereafter acknowledge a deeper connection than friendship.
Because the author has crafted two unavoidably likeable, genuine characters, it’s hard not to root for them and wish there were some way they could be together openly, even though, ultimately, their courtship is unethical and, more importantly, unlawful. Admittedly, I was taken aback by how easily Andrew--the adult and the authority figure--throws caution to the wind, sending text messages and arranging secret meetings, considering they supposedly live in a small Texas community. Then I had to remind myself that Andrew is only 24, practically still a boy himself, behaving much like a typical young man that age, who happens to be crazy in love.
It turns out that Robert isn’t the only problem, when a homophobic jock makes life very difficult for Andrew. Furthermore, his ex-wife and child’s mother, Maya, holds on to the fantasy that one day they’ll all eventually be a family again. Robert, meanwhile, struggles with having to honor family tradition and attend medical school, not his first choice for a career path.
This compelling novel is about the choices we make, and how we sometimes have to learn the hard way that our first choice may, in fact, be the wrong choice, and therefore, we must suffer the consequences. I commend the author for tackling such a taboo topic with sincerity, gravity and humility. The story of Andrew and Robert is one not to be forgotten.
"Where You Are"