Monday, August 15, 2011

Keeping Up Appearances by Ann Roberts

Publisher:               Bella Books

Keeping Up Appearances is about people who struggle.  Set in a middle school, the reader is taken on an exploration of the difficulties faced by lesbian teachers, the battles that revolve around special education students and the unhappiness of a child who tries to relieve her pain by cutting herself.

Faye Burton is the principal of Cedar Hills Elementary, but that may not last for long.  There is a rumor that the new school superintendent is going to try to fire her because she's a lesbian.  Faye isn't "out" at school because that alone would be grounds for firing her, but everyone seems to "know."  It totally complicates the relationship Faye begins with the new special education director Andrea Loomis because Andi is totally closeted and doesn't "look the part."  Where Faye is about ready to reveal herself and take the consequences, Andi isn't.  Their lives are further complicated because of Constance Richardson and her autistic nephew AJ.  The school can no longer meet AJ's needs and he is becoming disruptive to the program.  Constance is a high powered lawyer however and she's determined he is going to stay at Cedar Hills where she feels he will get the best education.  If that means using a private detective to gather information on Faye and Andi to blackmail them into what she wants, then she'll do it.  AJ's one real friend is Pandy Webber.  She understands struggling with life since she was abandoned by her neglectful mother and lives with her grandfather.  Working with AJ helps ease her depression and gives her a sense of purpose.

The interactions between the characters send several messages.  Sometimes in schools and life decisions are made not in the best interests of the people involved, but because they are politically expedient.  People can get so caught up in their own interests and concerns that they fail to see or understand what other people are coping with.  People with good intentions can often disagree on a course of action because of their own perspectives or because they fail to comprehend another person's motivations.  Prejudice comes in many forms, whether racial, sexual, economic or involving those with special needs.  Finally, the life that evolves in a school is extremely complex in its relationships and subtleness.  Anyone who thinks there are easy solutions to any of these situations has failed to grasp what is going on.

Ann Roberts has created a book that could be dismissed as a romance that takes place in a school, but there is a lot more going on in this story.  She blends the stories together in a seamless manner.  Someone might read this and only see the plot lines while missing the connections between them.  That would be a shame.  There is a lot to think about in this book and it deserves more attention than to just be considered another romance.

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