Robert Westfall’s life is falling apart—everywhere but in math class. That’s the one place where problems always have a solution. But in the world beyond high school, his father is terminally ill, his mother is squabbling with his interfering aunts, his boyfriend is unsupportive, and the career path that’s been planned for him feels less appealing by the day.
Robert’s math teacher, Andrew McNelin, watches his best student floundering, concerned but wary of crossing the line between professional and personal. Gradually, Andrew becomes Robert’s friend, then his confidante. As the year progresses, their relationship—in school and out of it—deepens and changes. And as hard as he tries to resist, Andrew knows that he and Robert are edging into territory that holds incalculable risks for both of them.
J.H. Trumble, author of the acclaimed Don’t Let Me Go, explores a controversial subject with extraordinary sensitivity and grace, creating a deeply human and honest story of love, longing, and unexpected connection.
Praise For Don’t Let Me Go
“A sexy, vibrant, and heartfelt debut.” —Martin Wilson, award-winning author of What They Always Tell Us
“Deeply moving…will be appreciated by adults and teens alike.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A charming story. Trumble’s love for the characters is evident on every page, and it’s contagious.” --Robin Reardon, author of A Secret Edge
“[A] gripping tale of love, hate
of differences and owning up to who you are…More than just a love story, it
details the issues gripping teens who are growing up in a dysfunctional family,
as well as how to cope with the loss of a parent. These common issues—small or
big—are relevant to any young adult.” – VOYA Magazine
1. The title of the novel comes from the belief that teachers
should meet students where they are. Discuss the title as it
pertains to Andrew’s interaction with his students and, in
particular, with Robert.
2. Why do you think Robert reaches out to Andrew as opposed
to his own mother or Luke or Nic or any of his other
friends? What do you think attracts Robert to Andrew?
Andrew to Robert?
3. Discuss the role of social networking in the novel, especially
as it pertains to Andrew’s homosexuality. Do you believe
that teachers should be held to a different standard
than other adults, that they should be above reproach in
their personal as well as their professional lives? And if so,
to what extent? How does that apply to their sexual orientation?
4. At Sam Houston State University, Robert confesses to Andrew
that he is anxious for his father’s death: “I know he’s
my dad and all, but I feel like he’s just this thing that sucks
all the oxygen out of the room. Like the world has stopped
spinning and it can’t start again until he’s gone.” Robert is
worried that he is a bad person because he feels nothing for
his dad. Do you believe this is true? Is there anything that
suggests otherwise? How do you explain Robert’s feelings
toward his dad?
5. The Texas law referenced in the novel imposes a penalty of
up to twenty years in prison for a teacher convicted of having
sex with a student, regardless of the student’s age. The
law is based on the belief that teachers have power over students,
and that power undercuts the ability of students to
freely give consent. Discuss this “power differential” and
your feelings about a law that makes criminals out of consenting
6. Robert tells Andrew that in the Westfall family, if you’re not
a doctor, you’re nothing. How does his belief play out in
the Westfall family dynamics?
7. Robert frequently texts song lyrics to Andrew, and occasionally
Andrew texts song lyrics back. A playlist, which includes
some of those songs, is included on the following
pages. What role do these lyrics play in their relationship?
8. There are a number of out gay students at Robert’s
school—Robert, Nic, Luke, the RW fan club. How realistic
is this? In what ways does the school climate indicate that
gay students are no big deal? Is this true for teachers as
well? Explain. How does this compare to your own high
9. Robert’s mom believes that her husband resented her because
of his dependence on her after his cancer diagnosis.
In what ways did this resentment play out? Do you believe
his resentment is a function of his immaturity, or do you believe
dependency breeds resentment?
10. Discuss Andrew’s classroom management. Do you believe
he is an effective classroom manager? Do you agree with
his techniques? Do you believe he could have handled
Stephen Newman better? If so, how?
11. When Andrew was in school, he had a crush on an English
teacher—Mr. Jacobson. How did his memory of this crush
affect his relationship with Robert? How did his experience
with Kevin, the lab assistant in college, influence the way he
treated Robert? Are there similarities, differences?
12. Discuss the consequences of Andrew’s violation of the
strict code of conduct regarding student-teacher relationships.
Do you believe the consequences went too far or not
far enough? Why?
13. At one point, Maya accuses Andrew of being selfish. Do
you agree with her? Why or why not?
14. In J. H. Trumble’s first novel, Don’t Let Me Go, we get to
see the characters ten years into the future. Where do you
see Andrew and Robert in ten years?