Book review: The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

Avalon Hills, a privileged town in Connecticut, is the picture of respectability. Their renowned prep school is a place where young people go to learn, grow and get accepted into Ivy League colleges. George Woodbury is a highly respected teacher at this school, winning teacher of the year every year for the past 10 years after stopping an armed gunman roaming the school hall. His daughter is in the top classes at this same school, his son a respected lawyer in New York, and his wife a triage nurse awarded a medal of service by the mayor himself. These are truly the best kind of people, which is why it comes as such a shock when the police barge into their home and arrest George on charges of sexual misconduct with multiple minors.

This book follows the lives of George’s wife Joan, his daughter Sadie, and his son Andrew as they await the trial. Joan endures endless external condemnation while also trying to process the possibility that her husband is a sexual predator, all while continuing to be a mother, wife, and trying to remain a functioning human being.  Sadie and Andrew have their own demons to face, from endless questions about their own childhoods with an alleged sexual offender, to loss of friends and respect in their community. Each perspective is unique and thought-provoking.

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I found it interesting that the book started with the pinnacle of George’s heroism, when he stopped the armed gunman roaming the school halls. This really set the reader up to see George as everyone else sees him: charming, affable, and heroic. As a result, it’s all the more shocking and confusing when he is accused of these heinous crimes. Like his family members, the reader has to work through what they thought they knew of this character versus the allegations he faces.

The Best Kind of Peoplereminded me of Little Fires Everywhere by CelesteNg.  They both have a similar white suburbia setting and center on an issue without a clear black and white answer.

Chelsea Iversen is a library technician at the Steveston Branch of the Richmond Public Library. She recently enjoyed A Simple Favour by Darcey Bell and has Vox by Christina Dalcher on her bookshelf for later.


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