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Tea-drinking introvert found either behind a book or within arm's reach of one. Book reviewer, and book sniffer. You may have seen me on W24, BooksLive, Aerodrome, Bark Magazine, CultNoise Magazine, or Expound Magazine.

28 Aug 2021

Review: For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing

Teddy Crutcher takes immense pride in his work. He’s a teacher, tasked with shaping the minds of some of the wealthiest kids in the country, at an elite school. Despite not coming from a wealthy background, he’s good at his job. In fact, he’s just been awarded the coveted Teacher of the Year award.

But not everyone thinks he deserves this honour.

There’s Zach, the straight A-student whose grade he just destroyed, and Fallon, a disgruntled former pupil who never misses a chance to send him a scathing email.

Yet when Fallon suddenly becomes his co-worker, everything changes, and not least because she arrives amid a series of unusual deaths at the school.

Now, Teddy must deal not only with a colleague dead set on revenge, but he’s also got to try find a way to help students like Courtney, a top pupil arrested in connection with the deaths.

Teddy knows that Courtney didn’t do it, but who did?

For Your Own Good is another brilliant example of Samantha Downing’s ability to create characters so realistic they could leap off the page. Even if they’re annoying as hell. The desire to like Teddy is continuously tested by his masterful unlikability.

Our protagonist thinks himself the only adult in a world full of children, but his actions and attitude are juvenile to the extreme, and the lows he stoops to would impress limbo dancers the world over. Yet despite his prominence in the story, Teddy remains a mystery – the character with the least developed backstory, and the most reluctant to part with his secrets.

And the frustration that is created by Teddy Crutcher simply existing is exquisite. He challenges the reader with his outlandish beliefs and opinions, while also managing to highlight the many perceived inadequacies of today’s youth. In a nutshell, Teddy Crutcher is a creation of pure genius, and an impressive literary tool.

There’s a downside to having a main character so enveloped in mystique and taboo, and so carefully juxtaposed against the supporting cast. It’s that it becomes difficult to navigate a complicated plot without giving away your hand. Unfortunately, this causes a few awkward plot holes; some clues are thrown in a little too haphazardly, with timing that’s a little too fortuitous. In the world of literary twists, Downing is royalty, but this time around, you can spot a few of those smaller red herrings long before they’re old enough to smell fishy.

For that reason, For Your Own Good cannot be called a perfect novel; but it’s pretty damn close, and absolutely worth reading. Right now.

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing is published by Michael Joseph, a Penguin Random House company.

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