4.5 stars. At the root of this book is a very controversial idea - a high school student and teacher falling in love. And while many (including myself) view this as completely taboo, I can appreciate that most teachers are in their early to mid twenties when they start, and high school kids can be 18. That's not a huge age difference. (In a TMI aside, I became great friends w/ a new teacher at my high school in my senior year, and he was HOT. He wasn't my teacher, and I definitely wouldn't have minded something happening, although it never did. As far as I know, it was completely one-sided on my part).
Annie was an 18 year old senior when she fell in love with her English teacher, 24 year old Dylan. He returned the emotion, but refused to act on it. When Annie pushed him to act, he left his job and moved away in order to keep his integrity intact. The story takes place 20 years later, when they meet again. Dylan is interviewing for the high school principal position, and Annie is now the English teacher. Dylan is unaware of what his leaving did to Annie, and she is too scared to take the risk of loving him again, having lost him once, and having lost her husband in Iraq. Plus, she has twin 8 year old sons to look after.
Kathryn Shay never shies away from tough or controversial subject matter. I thought all the issues in this book were handled with care, and ably so. She made both characters immensely appealing, so I was really rooting for them to make it work. It was as difficult for the reader to find a way out of their predicament as it was for Annie and Dylan. But Shay comes up with the perfect (and only, IMO) solution available to them.
The only things that keep this from being a 5 star read for me are the overtly jealous and almost evil former classmate of Annie's, and wondering why she was so adamant about staying in a town where she was faced with such animosity from some folks. I think had the book been a little longer, this may have been addressed, but a revelation on why it was so important to her would have helped me to understand.
Plus, there is that uncomfortable feeling of reading about a taboo subject and feeling ok about it. That was very strange. It was only that Dylan refused to acknowledge his feelings for Annie to her back in the day and left town in order to keep from acting on those feelings that give credibility to the plot. It was handled in about the only way Shay could have to make it acceptable. And she does, amazingly.
Shay is self-publishing this series via Smashwords (not sure why?). Eagerly awaiting the 2nd in the series in January.