Review can be viewed on Goodreads: http://bit.ly/VbSSQj
Rating: ★★★★ 4/5
I got more than I bargained for when I started reading Lessons Learned. I have never come across a book where I wanted to cry in every other chapter. If there was a book that would have a tearjerker impact on me, then this was it.
This story is about English teacher Sarah Bray, following a traumatic event that had affected her deeply, she returns to her hometown, Sycamore Falls. By returning home, she hopes to battle the demons of her past. She meets Lucas Miller in a hardware store; he is a teacher from New York and also battling his own past. Their love blossoms, but then Matt the quarterback of the football team reveals a secret of his own to them.
I like the protagonist Sarah, I think is someone who genuinely loves teaching and maintains a good connection with her students, which is nice to read about. She went through hardship when she was young. Her parents died when she was sixteen and from that day on, she distanced herself her people who showed her love because in this way she wouldn’t get hurt.
The relationship blossoming between her and Lucas is very sweet and innocent; there was neither angst nor problems with them. Sarah, despite a very wounded character allowed to be loved by him and the nice thing was that Lucas wanted to take care of her. When Sarah had a panic attack and also when she cried, Lucas was there for her making sure that she was okay. Sarah’s ex-boyfriend Ryan, on the other hand, could not handle Sarah’s breakdowns and emotions. I think that’s why Lucas and Sarah worked so well together. Lucas sounded a bit too perfect to me. What I like was they pulled through and overcame their past together.
When Sarah’s past was revealed and I felt really moved by her story. I was close to tears! She blamed herself for what happened to Josh when it wasn’t her fault, but she felt responsible because he confided in her. All she wanted to do was help him. With Lucas, there was a scandal that he was involved in back in New York. This wasn’t his fault either, but he was left humiliated after the incident that he could not face teaching there again.
I thought the storyline was intensely moving and I commend the author for writing such an amazing story on important issues. It was centered on the concept of love, being accepted, suicide and prejudice. In a small town like Sycamore Falls, people are respectable and have traditional values. However there will be people who are very narrow-minded and will have different beliefs to as what is right and wrong in terms of someone’s sexuality. For one thing, people aren’t use to seeing people of another ethnicity, which I found quite astounding. When Sarah’s best friend Monica comes to visit her, who is African American, heads turn and people stare. Sarah was fortunate to be brought up by her grandma who taught her to view the world with an open eye.
Matt completely stole the show in this book. It’s not often that a story would be centered on a secondary character. The situation with Matt and Josh is partially the same, so it's a bit like déjà vu for Sarah; she regretted deeply that she couldn’t save him. After the truth about Matt is revealed, residents of Sycamore Falls are shocked, gossip spreads and they quickly distance themselves from him. At school, Matt becomes very isolated, suffers from school bullying and even from his local community church. My heart broke for him and cried. It was so heartbreaking to read about what he’s going through and how he wasn’t accepted for who he is. In the same way when people say ‘you can’t help who you fall for,’ Matt can’t help who he is and he can’t change that. You can either accept it or you don’t.
Sarah was the heroine of the story; I really liked that she stood up for Matt to the manipulative Principle who is against him. She tried to help Matt, in the same way she tried to help Josh and that’s how teachers should be – supportive to their students. Sarah was quite a vulnerable character in the beginning of the story about her past, but when it comes to her students, she’ll stand up to what she believes is right.
This book is definitely a 4 stars out of 5. It made me want to cry so much, but it’s one of those books that compelled and stayed with me. The story is an easy read, very well written and really moved me. I loved getting to know the characters, reading about the development of Sarah and Lucas’ love story, and especially Matt, he was the one that shined throughout the book.
Bottom line: I recommend! But you’re going to need some tissues ready.