“Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both.” Eleanor Roosevelt
I always like to set the tone for the review with a quote. I could have picked Don’t Stand So Close To Me by The Police for this one: “Young teacher the subject of school girl fantasy, she wants him so badly, knows what she wants to be…” But I feel this book goes beyond the teacher-pupil story. At its heart is justice.
Nick Dean’s world caves in around him as a student levels an accusation against him that he touched her inappropriately. It isn’t true but the general principle of being innocent until proven guilty is turned on its head in these circumstances. He is immediately suspended from teaching, and worse, not permitted to be unsupervised with his children, which causes enormous strain on his family life as his wife juggles her job and the childcare. Nick simply cannot understand why he has been accused by this girl, Angela.
Angela isn’t one of the popular girls in school. Prone to being a loner, she’s unhappy at home, regularly having stand up rows with her mum. Her parents are divorced, a common enough reason for a child to be upset, angry and bewildered. But can this really be the root of why Angela creates such a fantasy about her teacher, the only teacher who actually seemed to encourage her in her classes?
I always struggle with stories where there is an undercurrent of false accusation or injustice. It must be my inner lawyer railing against it. This novel deftly treads the line, scattering elements of doubt about what we think we know to be the truth but leaves you wondering whether justice will indeed be served, and to whom.