A mother who lives for, and through, her high school children suffers the consequences of her all-consuming obsession while she tries to oust a beloved teacher.
Julia Abbott, a middle-aged stay-at-home mom in the elite enclave of Liston Heights, Minnesota, has an overflowing calendar and a laser focus on her children. Her days are filled with volunteer activities related to their high school and its theater department, catty coffees with fellow moms, and arguments with teachers who deign to give her children anything less than an A. When a gossipy secret Facebook group pops up with the inside info on teachers and school machinations, of course she jumps right in. Isobel Johnson, on the other hand, is an English teacher beloved by students who has devoted her life to social justice issues. She mentors a new teacher Jamie Preston and pushes her students to interrogate multiple perspectives such as queer theory, the motherhood penalty, and white savior complexes in the curriculum-mandated novels. And then there is the incident: Julia elbows a student (or is it a punch?) on school grounds in the middle of the school day, and the video goes viral. In a book that deals with dramas minor rather than major but is just as good as Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, debut author West offers a sharp, unflinching look at her characters: teachers and administrators trying to do—and keep—their jobs; busy, high-powered parents who buy the best they can for their families; helicopter mothers who see themselves as the omniscient beings who control their children’s lives; and the high school students themselves, who sometimes have to learn about kindness and mentoring, bullying and inappropriate behavior by judging their parents’ and teachers’ actions rather than those of their peers.
An excellent, nuanced exploration of the world of high school and the students and adults who live within it.