When you are young and in love, you don’t really think about how your actions could affect others. Something like sleeping with your teacher, for example. Morgan Monetti learns the hard way that even though she’s past the age of consent and practically of legal age, there are still laws in place to protect her from being taken advantage of by some scumbag who should know better. In the gripping and powerful novel, The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle, what seems to be a small-town scandal is blown up into a major catastrophe as neighbor turns against neighbor, brother against brother and friend against friend after a teenager is found in her teacher’s car, practically naked and clinging to him in a passionate embrace. This was such a moving story to read and it is written so well.
The story is told from the POV of three women: Morgan, who believes she might as well be an adult even though she is barely 18; Dinah, Morgan’s mother who is willing to go to Hell and back for her kids and fight the monsters of the world, even if her kids are in the wrong; and Rain, so desperate for a baby that she starts to lose touch with her husband, TJ, as well as her own life itself. These characters were fleshed out really well and they just really came to life on the pages. I didn’t have to even read a name to know which character’s turn it was because they were really unique in their own ways. It was hard to cheer for Dinah who was protecting her daughter on one hand then coddling her the next, as well as Rain, who was so set on getting pregnant that she let the stress eat away at her and she could hardly enjoy life as it was, but this was all part of who these women were and what they represented in the story. Morgan acts like a typical 17-year-old, although she does have that “Mother Hen” role with her twin brothers, and her dad, Joe, while focused on his job as assistant principal at Morgan’s school, obviously crumbles over what his daughter has done but he tries to stay strong through the whole mess. Even during the trial in which Morgan’s teacher, TJ Hill, is being charged with a sex crime, he tries to stay strong even though Morgan refuses to stand by the man who she thinks she has found love with. I was really mad at TJ Hill, who not only should have known better as the adult in this situation but should have been ashamed of himself for cheating on his wife like that. I did not like him at all after that!
The Whole Golden World is a novel I would not soon forget. I read it as a parent, as a compassionate adult, as someone who remembered what I myself was like at 17 and as someone who just wants justice for a girl taken advantage of by someone in authority. It brings to light the issue of teacher-student relationships and made me question what I myself would do as the parent in that sort of situation. For anyone who has ever wondered why something like this could happen, how something like this could happen, this story shows just one example of the why and how. It is such an engaging story and I enjoyed reading this novel.
Kristina Riggle, the acclaimed author of Real Life & Liars, returns with a thought-provoking novel inspired by real-life events
Seventeen-year-old Morgan Monetti shocks her parents and her community with one simple act: She chooses to stand by the man everyone else believes has exploited her—popular high school teacher TJ Hill. Quietly walking across a crowded courtroom to sit behind TJ, and not beside her parents, she announces herself as the adult she believes herself to be.
But her mother, Dinah, wants justice. Dinah is a fighter, and she believes with all her heart and soul that TJ is a man who took advantage of her daughter. He is a criminal who should be brought to justice, no matter what the cost to his family.
Rain, TJ's wife, is shocked that her handsome, loving, respected husband has been accused of a terrible crime. But has her desperation to start a family closed her eyes to the fault lines in her marriage? And can she face the painful truths about herself and her husband?
Told from the perspectives of these three remarkable women, The Whole Golden World navigates the precarious territory between childhood and adulthood, raising questions about love and manipulation, marriage and motherhood, consent and responsibility. It's a novel both shocking and unforgettable in its power.