My rating : 5 out of 5 stars
I bought “Unteachable” by Leah Raeder on a whim, and I am so glad I did. Teacher-student relationships are usually more squicky than sexy for me, and I’m not sure whether the technical legality of this romance made the decision to pick up the book easier or not. Now that I’ve finished reading, I’m not so sure it matters.
Maise O’Malley is a restless eighteen-year-old, eager to finish her senior year and go to film school somewhere as far from her small hometown as she can get. She meets Evan during one intense night at the carnival, fleeing after she realizes that she’s falling for him much too fast. Avoiding their connection proves impossible when Mr. Evan Wilke is waiting to teach Maise’s film studies class on her last first day of school.
As much as I loved the deeply dysfunctional relationship between Maise and Evan–not to mention their crazy chemistry–I wouldn’t have cared half as much about their story if the other people getting tangled up in it weren’t just as interesting. The contrast between Maise’s desire to belong to her friend Wesley’s eccentric family, and the mother she’s really stuck with, added depth to her bold personality and her longing to escape.
Raeder’s writing is beautiful–walking the fine line between lyrically vivid and bluntly coarse with natural ease. I’ve read and re-read some sections over and over again since finishing the book the first time, and I keep finding passages that wow me. The prose here makes me almost green with envy. I love it.
One of the things that impressed me about “Unteachable” was the whole host of other character issues orbiting the forbidden romance at the center of the story. Maise fights a constant battle–both in her relationship with Evan and her life outside him–between acting like a mature adult and being seen as one. Her handling of her problems veers between childlike and grown-up depending upon how she feels around Evan. It seemed realistic to me that she would be so influenced by her first real relationship, and watching her stand on her own with or without him was super rewarding.
This novel earns an easy five stars and it deserves every one of them. “Unteachable” is being released by a publisher next year, with a brand new cover to boot. If you haven’t bought it by now, I suggest you do after its second release. You won’t regret it.