Tuesday, October 21, 2014

[Review] ~ Unteachable by Leah Raeder

Release date: March 24, 2014
Published by: Atria
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Buy Links:  Amazon |B&N
Author links: Facebook |Author Web site

Maise O’Malley just turned eighteen, but she’s felt like a grown-up her entire life. The summer before senior year, she has plans: get into a great film school, convince her mom to go into rehab, and absolutely do not, under any circumstances, screw up her own future.
But life has a way of throwing her plans into free-fall.  When Maise meets Evan at a carnival one night, their chemistry is immediate, intense, and short-lived. Which is exactly how she likes it: no strings. But afterward, she can’t get Evan out of her head. He’s taught her that a hookup can be something more. It can be an unexpected connection with someone who truly understands her. Someone who sees beyond her bravado to the scared but strong girl inside.  That someone turns out to be her new film class teacher, Mr. Evan Wilke.  Maise and Evan resolve to keep their hands off each other, but the attraction is too much to bear. Together, they’re real and genuine; apart, they’re just actors playing their parts for everyone else. And their masks are slipping. People start to notice. Rumors fly. When the truth comes to light in a shocking way, they may learn they were just playing parts for each other, too.  Smart, sexy, and provocative, Unteachable is about what happens when a love story goes off-script.

This book had me from the very first page.  This book deals with a student-teacher romance and is graphic and raw in both sexual and emotional terms.  I've read a few books in this sub-genre, and this is by far the most developed and beautifully written of those books.  

When you're eighteen, there's fuck-all to do in a southern Illinois summer but eat fried pickles, drink PBR tallboys you stole from your mom, and ride the Tilt-a-Whirl till you hurl.

Maise O'Malley is a heroine that I fell in love with immediately.  She is a very strong girl who lost her innocence and naievity long ago.  Maise has lead a difficult life - her father isn't in the picture, her mother is an addict who is caught up in all sorts of bad shit, and she learned long ago not to count on anyone but herself.  But Maise isn't so hardened that she's unbearable or disillusioned.  She uses her tough girl persona to hide the fact that she is terrified on the inside.  She's terrified that she won't get out of the life she was born into.  She's terrified of the decisions she has made.  She's terrified that she's going to end up like her mother.  She is dealing with loneliness and self worth issues.  She wants all that life has to offer, but doesn't think it's something she will ever attain.  As Raeder writes in the novel, Maise is caught in the time between being an adult and a child.  But when she meets a handsome newcomer to her small town one summer night, it all begins to change.  

Thanks, Dad, for leaving a huge void in my life that Freud says has to be filled with dick.

Evan Wilke is a new to town.  Evan and Maise meet at a town carnival and spend one hot and steamy night together.  Immediately, Evan sees more in Maise than she knows.  Flash forward a couple of weeks, and we learn that Evan is the new teacher at Maise's school.  Let's be clear - Maise is 18-years-old during this book.  Although it is still frowned upon for a teacher to have a romantic relationship with a student, she is of legal age.  Evan is completely smitten with Maise, and Maise is obsessed with Evan.  In order to keep rumors at bay, they agree to continue their relationship in secret, although Evan offers more than once to quit his job for her.

I felt his kiss all the way through me.  I felt it in every hollow place, filling me with summer heat, starlight, sweat and abandon.

Evan and Maise are like fire together.  They are combustible, and burn anything in their way.  Maise sees Evan as stable - a nice guy is something she has never had before.  They go away on lovers weekends and spend nights together.  However, Evan is a broken man.  He is harboring secrets from his past, and when push comes to shove, he makes up his mind to do right by Maise.  Even is such an interesting character.  While reading this, I really liked the idea of him and Maise together.  He gave her something she had been searching for her entire life.  He made her feel like a real and decent person.  After reading this and thinking on it, I began to feel that Evan was creepy.  Really creepy.  We read this story through Maise's eyes, so it all appears sunshine and rainbows with some hard truths thrown in.  When looking at this story from Evan's perspective, though, it takes on a decidedly darker tone.

The storm had finally broken, tatters of cloud pulling apart like cotton candy and sprinkling the sky with the bright sugar grains of stars.  It felt like one of those timeless nights, not any season or year in particular, simply a snapshot of twenty-first-century loneliness.  Far away a train horn wailed, a sound out of a postapocalyptic landscape.  I felt like the last person alive on Earth.

There is a lot of drama and angst as this book progresses.  The taboo relationship begins in a whirlwind, full of promise and carefree love.  Soon, though, the real world intrudes.  Not only does Maise's mother cause her significant problems, forcing Maise to dabble in the illegal, but rumors about her and Evan begin to pick up steam at school.  A classmate tries to blackmail Maise, Maise has to find a clever way out of it, and just when you think Maise is in the clear, she faces yet another heartbreak.  There are so many plot lines running through this book that are expertly woven together.  It is a deep book that will stay with you long after you've finished turning the pages.  And the emotions!  Oh, the emotions in this book!  

The city at night gave me the same melancholy twinge I'd felt as a kid watching Mom plug in the Christmas tree.  Something beautiful and full of promise, but something you knew you could never touch.

This is an absolutely beautifully written book.  Not only can Raeder weave a compelling and intricate story, she writes in a fantastic voice.  She is poetic and writes visually.  The descriptions she includes had be closing my eyes and imagining I was in her book.  I can't even begin to tell you how many passages I highlighted while reading this.  The prose is lovely and I can't wait to read more from this author.

"I can't hold onto you.  You're like that shooting star.  Just a trail of fire in my hands."

The ending of this book was perfect.  It felt so true and genuine.  Maise's hopes and desires are within her reach, but just like real life, this isn't a fairy tale.  Her life is not a Hollywood movie.  Maise is following her dreams which is a scary thing when you are 18-years-old.  She is given a clean slate, and I'm only upset that this is a stand alone novel.  I would really, really love to hear what happens to Maise in the future.

Why did everything beautiful come from pain?

If you are a fan of dark romances, and don't mind the taboo nature of this story, than I highly recommend that you read this book.  It is a breath of fresh air in a sub genre that seems to go for the shock effect of the topic.  I found this book refreshing and to be what a New Adult book should be. Leah Raeder is a hot new author on the scene.  After reading Unteachable, it's a sure bet that I will read anything this talented lady writes.

"I've been waiting for months," I said, but what I thought was, I've been waiting my whole life.  I was so sure this was different, the kind of love story they made movies and books about, but in the end it was just a summer to a summer, a dizzying breath of honeysuckle and whiskey and candle smoke, inhaled, held, let go.


Librarian Lavender said...

This book has been on my wish list for a while, I think I should buy it now!

Bregje said...

I usually pass on new adult books, but this one sounds good! It sounds little different from what I've seen so far and the writing style seems pretty good. Thanks for sharing!

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