When Love Is Complicated: A Review of The Convincing Hour

This is the second of three YA book reviews I'm posting here. Each is a 5-star read that explores interesting, original and complex themes with memorable characters from diverse backgrounds.

Why I Loved This Book

Author Ann Roberts has an impressive back list of books in two genres--romance and mystery. This is her first Young Adult novel told from the point of view of her main character, teenage Story Black. But Roberts' experience with other genres is put to good use here. The Convincing Hour is a well plotted novel with an important twist toward the end and with all the heart and soul you'd expect from a solid romance. 

If that isn't enough, the book tackles so many important issues--poverty, addiction, homophobia, economic inequality, education, and privilege--without being heavy-handed about any of them.

What The Book Is About

Story Black lives in a trailer park with her meth-addicted mother, a genius who hasn't been able to use her impressive brain to benefit either her or her daughter. When Story learns that Char Barnaby, a local billionaire, has created a special high school called Tabula Rasa for intellectually-gifted teens caught up in the juvenile justice system, Story holds up a store in order to get thrown into juvenile detention and get a chance to leave her middling public high school for something better.

When Story eventually comes to the attention of Char, who invites her to the school, it's Story's mother who becomes an obstacle, objecting to Char's insistence that Story (and all other students at Tabula Rasa) live apart from their parents permanently until they graduate. Thus begins an ongoing struggle between Patty (Story's mother), Char, and Story herself.

Why I Recommend This Book

Income inequality in the US has enabled a tiny group of billionaires to dictate the terms of public education systems. Their "solutions" backed by their enormous resources have pushed and pulled teachers, principals, students and their families in many directions, from charter schools to smaller high schools to principal training to endless testing. Very few of these so-called innovations have had a positive impact, and none have not come from the "users" of the system. 

Char Barnaby is just the latest entrant into this field, a well-meaning philanthropist whose vision drives her efforts. It's not that she's wrong per se, it's just that her power and privilege bulldoze past any dissenting voices. That is, until she meets Patty Black.

So where does love fit into all of this?

As I mentioned above, love in The Convincing Hour is complicated. In the mother-daughter relationship between Story and Patty, love is bound up with guilt and dependency. In the mentor relationship Story develops with Char, love shows up as the interchange between the savior and the saved. In Story's relationship with her girlfriend, Bertie, love is about finding that first person who is your temporary safe harbor but knows when it's best for you that she let you go.

Love in The Convincing Hour is messy, complex, and very real, as it is in our own lives.

There's so much here to recommend this book, but the highlight is Story Black herself, a teenager caught up in so many personal and systemic challenges, but yet determined to emerge as the hero of her own story.  And she does.


  1. Great and insightful review. It sounds very interesting.

  2. Man, I love your book reviews. You find the coolest books.

  3. Great book reviews! But it'd be cool if you put your name in parentheses at the end of the title of your blog post, because otherwise I had no idea who posted it.


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