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Monday, November 18, 2013

Disturbing Courtroom/Family Drama Not Perfect, But Decent

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Scandals aren't something that usually happen in the small town of Arbor Valley, Michigan.  So, when a popular high school math teacher gets arrested for criminal sexual conduct against a student, the news sends waves of shock throughout the community.  Especially since the victim, 17-year-old Morgan Monetti, insists T.J. Hill is no criminal, that their relationship was entirely consensual.  Hill agrees he's innocent, just not for the same reason.  He claims Morgan's a disturbed, obsessive young woman who's making up stories to get attention.  Who's telling the truth?  That's the million dollar question.

Morgan knows how she feels about Mr. Hill.  What happened between them wasn't just real, it was special.  And she'll defend him to her dying day.  She doesn't care if she loses every friend she has, alienates her parents, or gets bullied at school—she's standing by her man.  Morgan's always been told she's "mature for her age" and "an old soul," so why won't anyone take her seriously like the adult she knows herself to be?

No matter how defiant her daughter's been lately, Dinah Monetti refuses to believe Morgan's anything but the unfortunate target of an older man's manipulation.  She'll see T.J. Hill jailed if it's the last thing she does.  In the meantime, Dinah has to keep her cafe running somehow, worry about her twin sons, and deal with her husband, an assistant principal who's terrified of losing not just his reputation, but also his job at the school.

Rain Hill can't believe her loving husband's been accused of such heinous acts against a child.  He'd never do such a thing.  Would he?  Rain knows her staunch determination to have a baby despite multiple failed attempts has driven a wedge between her and T.J., but she still knows—and owns—his heart.  Doesn't she?

A heated courtroom battle will decide T.J. Hill's fate.  As the fight rages on, three women will launch their own quests for truth.  Questioning themselves and those they love will bring heart-wrenching revelations, life-changing decisions and mind-bending arguments about guilt vs. innocence, maturity vs. naivete, and childhood vs. adulthood.  Only one thing is guaranteed:  none will come out of the situation unscathed.

By now, you're probably thinking the premise of The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle sounds a little ... disturbing.  You'd be right.  The novel examines an uncomfortable subject, for sure.  And while it does it thoroughly, I'm not sure it does it satisfactorily.  I think my reluctance has to do with T.J. and Morgan, neither of whom really earned my sympathy.  Neither were particularly likable and yet, I definitely cared about what happened to them, if only because of Dinah and Rain, the characters with whom I did feel empathy.  The story's compelling, though, so much so that I had trouble putting it down.  It's also depressing and lacking in subtlety.  Perfect, the book is not; still, it's engrossing, thought-provoking and a decent read overall.  

(Readalikes:  The story format reminds me of a Jodi Picoult novel; the subject matter recalls Defending Jacob by William Landay; House Rules by Jodi Picoult; and Cartwheel by Jennifer DuBois)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder invectives), sexual content and depictions of underage drinking/partying

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Whole Golden World from the generous folks at Harper Collins via those at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!


  1. It has such a pretty cover, but you know what they say about that.

  2. This does sound disturbing. I liked House Rules which was the first Picoult novel I read. Here's my reading/cooking recap, I hope you will stop by and be sure to add a link of your favorite review posts or giveaway to the linky! I hope to see you there! I will share it on my social media pages too. Hope you have another great week!

  3. "It's also depressing and lacking in subtlety." I think I'll pass.

  4. If you found this disturbing and depressing, I'm not sure I want to read it. Sounds like it lands several emotional punches.

  5. It is definitely disturbing and depressing, but also compelling. One of those where you kind of want to stop reading, but you're already too into the story to give up, you know? I gave the book a high grade because of that as well as the fact that it made me think. This one would be a good book club read for that reason alone.

    And, yeah, isn't that cover a beaut?

  6. Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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