Rumors by Phil M. Williams gives a false impression that it is a very long novel. Kindle lists it as 492 pages and the novel’s Table of Contents presents the reader with 146 chapters. This is deceptive. It is a one-session read and I felt it was a page-turner. Students will like the portrayals of inter-teacher and administrative political bickering. Some teachers might read this and shake their heads at familiar situations. Just like the title indicates, this is a novel about gossip, rumors, and the tremendous amount of damage that can occur to careers and personal lives. The novel is up-to-date as there is school violence, school bullying, and liberal use of Facebook. It is easy to read the book as far as the complexity of language. Sexual situations are minimal and described in non-salacious terms. I will recommend Rumors to my English as Second Language learners.
The novel is completely character driven. It becomes a page turner because chapters are alternated among Gwen, Caleb, Rick, Janet, and Rachel. These names are predominant in the chapter titles. Other characters such as Shane and Heather are important; they just don’t get chapter titles. As a reader gets involved in the story of Gwen, the next chapter will switch to Rick’s perspective. The short chapters keep a reader racing through interesting chapters as the reader seeks more information on their favorite character who is always lurking in the short-term memory.
Gwen is a new teacher at West Lake High School. She has had experience at another school; she is not an inexperienced teacher. But she had been forced out from her previous job by a scandal. It was serious enough that she was forced to change her name. Although Principal Pruitt knew of her secret past and name, he had hired her anyway. She was grateful but it would come back to haunt him. This is a huge secret with many ramifications for the reader to discover.
Rick is head Coach at West Lake High. He is good and very proficient at his job but his star senior quarterback, Shane, has recently been eclipsed as far a skill by a sophomore player, Jamar. If Rick wants to win important games and advance to state finals, he will have to shift more responsibilities to Jamar and give more bench time to Shane. But Shane is the son of a vicious political player, Vice Principal Janet Wilcox. She will be the evil antagonist throughout the novel, and she will do anything to assure that Shane gets maximum playtime and university scholarship offers. Rick is plagued by one of the worst problems that can plague any male teacher. He is being stalked by a seductive and promiscuous female student. With selfies just a cellphone away, Rick is very vulnerable.
Caleb is a reclusive, introverted high school student on the football team for a limited time. He has few friends and never will because he has become a target of Shane who, along with being the West Lake High preeminent quarterback, is a bully. Locker room bullying quickly leads to rumors of possible homosexual urges. In Caleb’s case, this is true, Caleb is homosexual. He has accepted it for himself, but he doesn’t know how to get accepted by others. His frustrations will turn to rages with subsequent detention for Caleb and Shane. How will Shane’s mother react?
Vice Principal Janet is pure evil. She spreads gossip through sycophants and complex alliances. Her son Shane can do no wrong. Janet will do anything to advance Shane, but she also has a step by step plan that will make her a principal and eventually school superintendent. She will throw anyone under the bus and will dispense sexual favors to get what she wants.
As the story rushes forward, complex family relationships will develop and be ruined. It is hard to find any family unit that totally avoids harm. It is difficult to find any character that has a blameless past without a dark secret to put holes in their innocence. This is a very interesting five-star Amazon read because of its complexity of story weaving. There is not the depth one would find in a psychological thriller, but this is good storytelling. This novel is available through Kindle Unlimited for a free read.