Perhaps that's why Greta Cassamajor catches him off guard. The sarcastic gym coach with zero sense of humor is no beauty - not even on the inside. But an inexplicably kind act toward Samuel makes him realize she is interesting.
Samuel is certain she won't accept his invitation to dinner - so when she does, he's out of his depth. All he knows is that he'll do whatever it takes to keep her as long as he can. Pretending he's got his class under control? Easy. Being vulnerable enough to admit why he ditched his programming career for teaching? Um, no. That would require honesty. And if there's one thing Samuel can't live without, it's the lies he tells himself.
In this poignant, witty debut, Ramsey Hootman upends traditional romance tropes to weave a charming tale of perseverance, trust, and slightly conditional love.
Comment: I was given this book for my birthday. I was aware this wouldn't be the most conventional romance story but still, that idea sold me on being quite eager to try it anyway.
In this story we meet Samuel Cooke, a bright and kind man but often overlooked by others due to his health problems, namely the fact he needs crutches to walk and also because he is considered a "nerd" which means women in particular don't find him attractive and tend to want to help him.
Samuel decides to change his carefully planned life by leaving his lucrative job at a company he part owes to teach at a high school. What Samuel wasn't counting on was the kindness of Greta, the gym teacher, a woman that by all standards isn't considered a beauty, nor a nice person and that is also older than him.
While Samuel tries to face the fact he does feel attracted to Greta, he also has a world to explore in the high school he joined, especially the challenge that is to be a teacher but also a friend...
I fund this story to be a very good one when it comes to slowly unravel hidden layers of understanding, of lessons learned and given to humans and of acceptance. How many hidden thoughts and feelings do we al carry within us but that we don't share with others? How often do we look at someone and judge based on appearance and eventually we would be proven wrong if only we could speak to that person or learn something about their lives?
While I don't think the author aimed this novel to the reader's philosophical thinking, it certainly was something I, personally, thought about while reading this.
The easiest way to describe this book is by saying it's a romance. But of course, the main component of this story isn't that. Samuel and Greta do become a sort of friends but their relationship doesn't follow any of the usual steps into a HEA.
In fact, it's the uniqueness of their relationship that makes it special because while each other trusts the other, they reinforce a bond that we can see is meant to be a good one.
I was mentioning layers before because while they slowly trust each other's status with the other, their hidden stories are much slower to come out but when that happens, the emotion is a lot stronger too. I just think that, by having only Samuel's POV, some better scenes regarding Greta were lost to us.
This sounds as if the story can be boring, but it's not, it's not just fluff or platonic expressions of love. Greta and Samuel face new situations for one another, they must deal with the fact they work in the same school, they face people's stares and comments and gossiping...but that same time it was good this wasn't only focused on Greta's harsh personality or Samuel's physical disability. They are part of a community, they have family members hey deal wit an their pat isn't always easy nor too difficult. It was good to see how the author attempted a balanced level between all elements.
I think some things were "solved" a little too superficially and other subjects lacked some of the content I hoped for (like more about Greta's life experiences) but overall, this was a good story. I finished the book happy with the way most things happened but now that a few days have gone by, I keep thinking I'd change one or two other things like how Samuel could have done something more when he learned who was guilty of Greta's unhappiness or how the secondary characters weren't as exploited as they could.
Regardless of that, this was a great surprise and I was very happy to have been given the chance to read it. Who knows how many good books are out there without us even knowing?