Sunday, February 26, 2012

Entangled by Maria V. Ciletti

Publisher:      Intaglio Publications

Maria Ciletti chose a topic for Entangled that is bound to create mixed feelings for readers.  Where is the boundary between a teacher and her student?  When is it alright to cross that boundary to seek a relationship?  In a time when the news seems to feature a story every week about teachers who have violated that line, this book shows both how complicated and uncomfortable such a situation can be.

Hayden Crissman graduates from high school and is looking forward eagerly to starting college in the fall where she can study for a career in nursing.  She takes a summer job to earn extra money and that brings her back in contact with one of her former teachers, Abbey Spencer.  Abbey helped Hayden get into college and Hayden has a secret crush on her.  Abbey's life is spinning out of control.  Her long time relationship with one of her former college professors is breaking up over a man and Abbey's method for dealing with it is to turn to alcohol.  Hayden finds herself thrust into the role of caretaker for a drunken Abbey on more than one occasion and a new relationship develops between them.  The events of just a few weeks will tear Abbey's life to pieces and will have many people questioning what the proper behavior between a teacher and a former student is.

Entangled touches on more than one delicate issue.  First there is a woman who "decides" she isn't a lesbian anymore because it's not good for her career.  Ciletti does well at capturing her calculating personality.  Then there are the relationships of these teachers.  Every teacher knows that there is a constant awareness of the distance that has to be kept between the adult and the student.  That can be especially difficult when the people are close in age.  Gay teachers deal with the added knowledge that behavior in a private life can have serious consequences for a professional life.  Many places still consider homosexuality as grounds for instant dismissal from a job and too many people actually believe that teachers use their jobs to troll for "converts."  Gay teachers are still required in some places to live a double life that is disappearing in other professions.  Although Ciletti illustrates the situation fairly well, she doesn't really capture how dire the consequences can be.  It takes too long for Abbey to realize how serious what she is doing is.

There are no simple solutions to the events in this book and none are provided.  That at least is refreshing.  The real villain doesn't receive the punishment she deserves and the situation between Abbey and Hayden is open ended.  The characters needed more development, especially Hayden, and there was too much going on in the book to be dealt with effectively unless the book was lengthened.  The central topic is an uncomfortable one and Ciletti doesn't make the mistake of trying to make it anything else.  This isn't her best novel, but she does deserve credit for tackling subjects that many people would rather avoid.    

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