Dec 082013


Danny’s Mom by Elaine Wolf

Friday Night Lights meets Ordinary People when Beth Maller returns to her job as a high school guidance counselor shortly after her teenage son, Danny, is killed in a car accident. Beth didn’t want Danny to drive that snowy night, but her husband insisted the roads were safe. Beth blames him for Danny’s death, and she blames herself for allowing fear of confrontation to paralyze her. Now back at work, Beth rails against the everyday injustices she had overlooked until her world cracked open. Her new circumstances cause Beth to become a major player in the moral battles being waged at Meadow Brook High–where homophobia snakes through the halls, administrators cling to don’t-rock-the-boat policies, and mean girls practice bullying as if it were a sport. While Beth struggles to find her “new normal,” she learns to speak out, risking her career, her marriage, and the very life she’s learned to embrace.

Danny’s Mom illustrates what really goes on behind the closed doors of our schools, from the perspective of the adults who are charged with keeping our children safe. It is a powerful novel that will appeal to all readers–especially parents, the millions of adults who work in our schools, and the LGBT community.

This is one of those books that is hard for me to review. I LOVED her book Camp and was so excited to read this book.

I guess I’ll give you the things I liked about this book first. I loved that it had tough subjects like the loss of a child (and how going back to work too soon is not a good idea), bullying among not only kids but adults as well, and  marital discord.

I loved reading about the relationship between Beth and her dad. I loved how close they were and that he was always supportive and there for her. I also loved the relationship she had with Callie. Even though they had a few rough patches, Callie was a good friend and was always there for Beth when she needed a friend.

While I sympathized with Beth and the emotions she was feeling after the loss of her son, it was so unbelievable to me that she would allow not only Peter, the vice principle, to treat her the way he did, but also to allow students to talk to her like that. On top of being treated so badly, no one would really listen when she tried to explain anything  or ask for help. I can’t imagine that she just stood there and took it all. I would have been furious and made them listen instead of just slinking away.

Another problem I had was why she was always doing things her principles told her not to do. It was like she thought she was allowed to just ignore them and do as she pleased.

Then there was the relationship between Beth and Kate, the grandmother who had lost her grandson. It was just strange.

And what was the problem Beth’s husband Joe had with her relationship with her father. He didn’t like that they talked on the phone almost every day or that they had dinner together quite often. He was her father! You should spend as much time with your family as you can while you have the chance!!

Bottom line, this book was a bit unbelievable. I wanted Beth to stand up for herself and be the guidance counselor she must have been before the loss of her son. I wanted her to report Peter every time he said anything to her that was unacceptable, and if need be, go above the principles head. I wanted her to do everything she could to make sure Tina and her friend stopped bullying Liz. I kept waiting for everything to be made right, but it just didn’t happen.

Even though I didn’t love the book as much as I thought I would, I’m still glad I read it and I would still read another book by this author.  Like I said, I loved her book Camp.

  5 Responses to “Book Review: Danny’s Mom by Elaine Wolf”

  1. thank you for your honesty. I hate it when a book could be so much more, and just isn’t.

  2. Too bad so many issues were left unresolved. I guess in real life things also happen that way, unfortunately. Nice review.

    Book Dilettante

  3. Hi Vicki,

    Sorry that you didn’t enjoy this book as much as you had hoped you would, but thanks for your honest take on it.

    Having checked out Elaine’s biography, I see that her own career in some ways mirrored that of the book’s main protagonist, Beth.

    Elaine is keen to point out that she writes about what she knows, so perhaps there is more of a message in ‘Danny’s Mom’ than is at first apparent, although I can quite agree with many of the points you raised about Beth perhaps returning to work too soon and ignoring the advice and wishes of the school’s principle.

    I am tempted to add this one to my list, along with ‘Camp’, although I may not afford them any priority over books slightly more within my comfort genres.

    Thanks for sharing your great reviw and have a good week,


  4. Although the book disappointed, you did a great job writing an honest review.

  5. Makes me think that homeschooled kids may be better off in some situations!

    Book Dilettante

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