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The Topeka School Review

The Topeka School

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

October 1, 2019

Fiction - Literary - Contemporary


Jonathon and Jane are two well renown therapists; Jonathon with his uncanny ability to get his male patients to talk, Jane for her book about relationships. Working together at "The Foundation" these two believe they have everything going for them and are confident they are raising an emotionally stable son... right??? Adam is an amazing debater in the Midwest. Yet he, like so many teenagers, thinks the only way to make up for being smart is to be cruel. Enter Darren, an intellectually disabled "man-child" who used to be one of Adam's friends back in preschool, is now the brunt of most of his classmates’ jokes. Ben Learner's "The Topeka School", takes a deep dive into the inner workings of his character's minds as they try to make sense of themselves and the world around them.

When I was introduced to this book for a reading challenge I was partaking in, I was excited to be able to read a book representing my hometown state of Kansas. Especially considering it focused on our state capital, and was close to where I was born and raised. As the book starts, I am warmed with descriptions of Clinton Lake and the beauty it encompasses. Followed with recognition of a high school within the district I attended. I was laughing along with the quirks and nuances that only one growing up in this area would really understand. I had great hopes for this novel.

Unfortunately, I was beyond disappointed. Let’s begin with the language, I was appalled with the vulgarity. In the first time of my life, I felt ashamed to be from Kansas. I was shocked that an author could represent my state with so much profanity. Not to mention the lack of consistency, although this could have been intentional. I struggled to not only follow what was happening, but I could not track when it was happening or even who it was happening to! Plus, the grammatical errors were so often I did not comprehend half of what I was reading.

I wanted to love this book, I really did, but I am embarrassed to even call this book a representation of the state of Kansas. With that said, I am graciously rating it with 1 out of 5 stars.

Although, this book was not my cup of tea, if you have an interest in psychology, how the mind works, or just intrigued this may be a book you might enjoy. Please be aware, there are several triggers. Events of sexual abuse, physical abuse, affairs and abandonment are hinted throughout.


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