A spirited librarian attempts to save her school from a dour new principal, opening herself up to love in the process.
Samantha Casey adores being a librarian at the artsy, progressive Kempner School, which is run by her mentor and substitute father, Max Kempner. Together with his wife, Babette, he’s created an educational environment full of love, creativity, and warmth. But when Max dies suddenly, a new principal is appointed, and to Samantha's horror, she realizes she knows him—he's Duncan Carpenter, who taught at her last school. He was a charming, fun-loving goofball, and she had such an unrequited crush on him that she had to move away to start a new life. She’s no longer the mousy girl she was then—now she wears bright colors and flowered hats and has no problem standing out. But Duncan isn’t what he used to be, either. Instead of wearing Hawaiian shirts, he wears gray suits. He redecorates his new office in gray. He wants to paint the school’s walls (that’s right) gray. But most important, he wants to completely revamp the school’s quirky, loving atmosphere and turn it into a secure, high-tech fortress that’s focused on keeping students safe. As Samantha and Duncan spend more time together, she starts to see bits of the Duncan she used to know. But why is he hiding, and what can she do to bring the old Duncan back…and save her beloved school? Making things even more complicated is Samantha’s epilepsy, which gives her seizures and makes her feel like she’s too much work for any potential relationship partner. Center uses familiar rom-com tropes but never in a way that feels forced or clichéd. Instead, she fills even the lightest moments with a real, human sadness. Even when dealing with traumatic events, Center manages to evoke a sense of comfort that is a pure pleasure. The story’s message, that people should choose joy even (and especially) in difficult and painful times, seems tailor-made for this moment.
A timely, uplifting read about finding joy in the midst of tragedy, filled with quirky characters and comforting warmth.