Where You Are by J.H. Trumble ( website | twitter )
Publication Date: December 24, 2012
Publisher: Kensington Books
Target audience: Adult/mature young adult
Keywords: bullying, social media, LGBT, student/teacher relationships
Format read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: Robert may be a star student, a popular addition to the marching band, and absolutely comfortable with his sexuality. But his dad is also deteriorating from cancer, his aunts are taking over his home, and his boyfriend never wants to touch him. At 24, Andrew is Robert’s calculus teacher. He’s a father to a young daughter, and does his best to keep his private life private. But for some reason, he can’t help but reach out to Robert, especially as he sees this bright student fading into the background. Will they both be able to maintain their respected boundaries?
When I wrote my review of J.H. Trumble’s Don’t Let Me Go in March, I wrote about how I kept thinking of the main characters of that story like they were people I had actually known in real life.
Fast forward almost nine months later, and I’m standing in a store parking lot in the freezing cold, on the brink of what is going to be a difficult two days for my family, and I am thinking about Robert and Andrew in the same way. What are they up to? What are they thinking? If they lived in my hometown, would I be calling them to hang out right now?
I’ve wracked my brain trying to figure out how Trumble makes her characters so human — flaws and all — and I come up short every single time. Because it just happens. It is so natural how these characters live and breathe on the page, even when I disagree with their actions and especially when everything becomes right in their worlds.
For many of you, a little red flag is going to pop up when you see “student/teacher” relationship. I’m not here to talk about a moral code or the importance of maintaining boundaries. Because as soon as I started reading about Andrew and Robert, all of their labels seemed to dissipate and I was left with two young men who really cared for each other. Two men who needed each other in different ways, and two people who actively tried to keep themselves at a distance (time and time again).
One of the most fascinating details about these characters is just how differently they deal with their sexuality. Robert was very open, and frustrated with a boyfriend who would rather hang out with “his girls” and not bother to kiss him, while Andrew was very focused on keeping his private life private (those nosey teachers!), even if it meant allowing people to think he was attracted to women. As the novel goes on, this difference created many scenes of role reversal where Robert actually seems to be the older one and Andrew, the more giddy.
On the surface, Where You Are was this kind of epic love story but the author also developed complex and intertwining back stories that allow the reader to dig deeper into these characters and help us to understand who they really are. I really loved Robert’s relationship with his mother (even the messy parts) and Andrew’s ex-wife, Maya, who always kept me guessing. (This is a good thing.) Trumble also skillfully integrated the influence of social media in our lives — from the accounts Andrew chooses to follow, secret fan pages, and a partner in bullying.
I read this book twice before I wrote the review (and I’ve only done that one other time this year with Marisa Calin’s Between You and Me) because I had to relive it again. I had to make sure I didn’t miss out on any one detail. Trumble has officially spoiled me with rich characters, feelings that make me feel everything, intricate details, the cool balance of family and school life, and a controversial topic that is dealt with so delicately and so passionately.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Trumble is an author to look out for.
(And I apologize in advance because if you react to this book like I did, you will not be able to get much done before you finish it.)