Friday, March 8, 2013

An Unplanned Lesson - Beth Rinyu

Did you ever hear the expression "sophomore slump"? It's the idea that the second time you do something it doesn't go as well as it did the first time. Wee see this a lot: in movies, in book series, in our jobs. One place I don't see it is in Beth Rinyu's second book, An Unplanned Lesson. I loved her first book, The Exception to the Rule, and was excited to preview her second book, but also a bit nervous: what if I didn't like it as much? No worries - there is no sophomore slump here.

It is the middle of August, and Nicole gets her dream job as a second grade teacher. One of her students struggles academically and with behavior; it turns out he lives with his uncle because his parents died in a car accident in the spring. She emails the uncle for support, and receives a nasty response. Feeling sorry for Ryan, Nicole offers to work with him after school. When she meets the uncle, Dailan, she finds herself - despite her best judgement - attracted to him. The story unfolds with many twists and turns that keep you hanging on until the very last page.

When I was in 8th grade English, I remember learning about the names for the elements of a plot; the only ones I remember were climax and [one of the most ridiculous words ever] denoument. According to my English teacher, books follow a steady progression, slowly increasing in a straight line, until reaching the high point, then quickly dropping off.

Real life is nothing like what my 8th grade teacher described. Life is messy. There are up days and down days; some days manage to be both "up" and "down" at the same time.

This book is like real life. There were times where it moved so fast my head was spinning. There were other times that I just felt cocooned in the gentleness of the book. There were ups and there were downs. This is not one of those romance books that is total fantasy; a book that you can't stop thinking about, wishing it was your life, even though you know it can't be anyone's life. Instead, it is a book that you can't stop thinking about because you feel like it really happened. Maybe it's because I'm a teacher, but I feel like Nicole could be one of my friends, that at any moment she'll be calling me to talk through her day.

I give this book five hearts. It isn't fake, and it isn't sunshine and roses, but it is real. And sometimes, real with a happy ending is all we need.