This book took me by surprise. I flew home to visit my parents for my one week work holiday, and when I got there I was looking forward to raiding my mom’s book stack. She recommended The Best Kind Of People, and without any preconceptions I started reading.
Set in Connecticut at a prestigious prep school, The Best Kind Of People is about a teacher who has been accused of sexual impropriety and the fallout the case causes.
The book details the experiences of the teacher’s wife, son, and daughter, Sadie, and through their eyes shows what’s happening to the accusers and others in the community.
Sadie in particular is an interesting character. A brilliant student and beloved friend of many, she struggles to believe the girls accusing her dad, but also can’t quite bring herself to listen to his explanation, either. She loses most of her friends and her young relationship flounders as she tries to navigate her new low social standing.
I’ve read a few non-fictions books about sexual assault, but never a fictionalized one that so deeply explores the repercussions of it in a small community. It’s a tough subject to write about, and Whittal navigates the dangerous terrain gracefully. She includes all of the narratives that need to be included, and, despite focusing the story around the accused’s immediate family, also weaves in the stories of the accusers and their hardships.
Whittall’s ability to create atmosphere is astounding. She perfectly describes a small community in the midst of a media frenzy, and her description of adolescence is incredible. Her characters have fleshed out back-stories that readers can easily connect with. She explores homophobia, sexual abuse and many other tricky, upsetting subjects elegantly but also bluntly.
The ending of The Best Kind Of People is complicated. I felt conflicted when I put the book down, and I think that’s the point. Sexual assault and rape cases are rarely resolved perfectly or even well. In the end people are left wondering what to do next and how to move on.
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