Monday, November 10, 2014

Unteachable by Leah Raeder

Unteachable by Leah Raeder
Release Date - October 14, 2014
Publisher Website - Simon and Schuster
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 320 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received in exchange for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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.
Student teacher relationships are often the 'go to' for forbidden love stories. Society seems to almost fetishize them. Unteachable takes one of these relationships and holds it under a microscope to see all the gritty, stark realism underneath. It burns, and twists your insides, and yet is somewhat hopeful and romantic.

Maise is an eighteen year old who is going on thirty. Having had to grow up quickly she seems wise beyond her years. Her abrasive, tough exterior masks a beaten, scared interior that makes you feel protective of her. She comes across as real. She's the type of character that all too easily imagined living and breathing off the pages she exists on.

Evan is someone with demons and issues of his own. He's broken in his own way, and often seems to be struggling with adulthood. He's not immature, he's just barely treading water. At times he seems untrustworthy, and at others you want Maise to run off with him into the sunset. Your feelings are just as conflicted about this character as they should be, and it creates a tension in the novel that is subtle.

These two coming together not only make sense, but feels logical as you get to know them. The sting of the student/teacher relationship is some what lessened by the notion that Maise is eighteen. If she wasn't his student it would be a relationship that perhaps raised eyebrows only because of the age gap. It allows you to see the romantic side to their relationship and the good that they bring out in each other.

Despite this aspect, the author never lets the reader forget that she IS his student. It's laced through every interaction, every touch, and every stolen moment. It's the nagging doubt in the back of Maise's head (and the reader as well) and it's always present. The brutal, honest way it's looked at makes the novel feel realistic. It's not making excuses, but showing how this type of situation could be plausible. It shows you how this type of relationship could happen. Does it make it right? This novel would rather leave the notions of right and wrong out of the discussion, and instead lets the reader see it as complicated. You feel that Maise is making choices rather than having them made for her, but you still see the fragile child underneath. It creates this conflicting push and pull within the reader regarding the relationship that is done rather well. Parts of the novel make you uncomfortable, but that's because they are supposed to.

I love that this novel doesn't pretend that they can fix each other. Two broken people coming together and there being no magical fix. It shows that maybe you're just the right kind of broken for someone else. Maybe they ease your pain, and you ease their own, but that the only person who can fix you is yourself.

The only, tiny, issue I had was the ending. After such a spiraling mess of emotions while reading, I felt the ending didn't fit. It didn't feel like the ending the story being told needed. It might be the ending a majority of people would want, but I think the ending needed to be more ambiguous. I wanted an ending with a few more cracks in it, like the rest of the novel. It tightrope walked the moral line, and I think that should have been reflected in it's ending.

A searing, crushing story about  a forbidden love and all it's complications. A unflinchingly realistic look at a beautiful, broken, twisted relationship and the messed up people in it. The emotional impact left in it's wake will stay with you long after you've finished, and leave you itching to discuss it. 

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