Book: “For Your Own Good” by Samantha Downing
Publishing Info: Berkley, July 2021
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.
Book Description: Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the esteemed Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest. He says his wife couldn’t be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.
Teddy really can’t be bothered with the death of a school parent that’s looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is on pushing these kids to their full academic potential.
All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way. It’s really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.
USA Today bestselling author Samantha Downing is back with her latest sneaky thriller set at a prestigious private school—complete with interfering parents, overeager students, and one teacher who just wants to teach them all a lesson…
Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!
I don’t know about you, readers, but I definitely had a high school teacher who probably had no business teaching students. He was the type that would stand at the cafeteria door, hands behind his back in full blocking stance, and then would inspect kids to make sure they weren’t taking food out of the lunch room. He once fully kicked me out of class for the day because I realized that I left my homework in my locker. Another run in involved him taking down signs for a student band for Battle of the Bands, and when I asked him why he said that it was a vulgar picture. It was a picture of a kid with a bag on his head, and his hand maybe sort of in the vicinity of his crotch, but just kinda resting on his thigh. I told him I didn’t see it, and I got screamed at for being deliberately obtuse (though frankly, HE was the one projecting masturbation connotations onto that of a minor, but hey, what do I know?). As I was reading “For Your Own Good”, I kept thinking back to good ol’ Mr. E, sociopathic bully that he was. But even Mr. E never went so far as to commit murder. At least, not that I know of. Given that soapy thrillers that take place at elite public schools usually involve students behaving badly, this was a fun change of pace!
“For Your Own Good” is a soapy and murderous new thriller from Samantha Downing, and like her other works it hits all the right notes without straying too far from well worn territory. We have a few different third person perspectives we are following, the most significant being that of Teddy Crutcher, Teacher of the Year and psychopath, who tells himself he only wants his students to be the best they can be as he wreaks havoc in their lives. He hides behind a mask of tough but fair mentor, though he targets those that he thinks are undeserving or smug. And given that he’s a teacher at a wealthy prep school, well, he feels that way a lot. He’s a fun character in his villainy, and it’s entertaining following him around and watching him plot and scheme. Other perspectives include that of Zach, one of his students that he has been especially cruel to (in subtle, unprovable ways), as well as other teachers and past victims. Teddy is definitely the person that we get to know the best, and while Zach is a close second, the rest have their parts to play and don’t really go outside their intended tropes and foil moments. And that being said, while Teddy is fun to read, he too isn’t very complicated in his psychopathy. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you, as sometimes you just want to read an over the top sudsfest with murder and asshole characters without having to think about it. In that way, “For Your Own Good” succeeds.
The plot itself is also a bit predictable, at least in how you see things playing out for various characters. Sure, there were some surprising moments and reveals here and there, and I enjoyed the ride of getting from start to finish. But it’s kind of things that we’ve seen before. And since our characters are pretty run of the mill, there isn’t as much tension because we aren’t as invested in them, and therein aren’t as invested in how things shake out for them. It is, however, a very readable book, and I definitely had a hard time putting it down because of that. And this is why I don’t really want to knock books that don’t think outside the box, because sometimes familiarity is a really good thing for the reading experience. Downing definitely as written a book here that I kind of knew what to expect as I read through, and I found it to be a fun experience because of that. And again, how fun was it to see the teachers being the assholes this time around?
“For Your Own Good” isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it’s super entertaining and addictive. It’s the kind of book you should take to the pool or beach in these waning summer months.
Rating 7: Entertaining, if a bit predictable at times, “For Your Own Good” is a breezy page turner that kept my interest until the end.