Thursday, March 22, 2018

Indecent by Corinne Sullivan

Indecent by Corinne Sullivan
Release Date - March 6,  2018
Publisher Website - Raincoast Books
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  304 pages
My Rating - 3.5/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Shy, introverted Imogene Abney has always been fascinated by the elite world of prep schools, having secretly longed to attend one since she was a girl in Buffalo, New York. So, shortly after her college graduation, when she’s offered a teaching position at the Vandenberg School for Boys, an all-boys prep school in Westchester, New York, she immediately accepts, despite having little teaching experience—and very little experience with boys.

When Imogene meets handsome, popular Adam Kipling a few weeks into her tenure there, a student who exudes charm and status and ease, she's immediately drawn to him. Who is this boy who flirts with her without fear of being caught? Who is this boy who seems immune to consequences and worry; a boy for whom the world will always provide?

As an obsessive, illicit affair begins between them, Imogene is so lost in the haze of first love that she's unable to recognize the danger she's in. The danger of losing her job. The danger of losing herself in the wrong person. The danger of being caught doing something possibly illegal and so indecent.

Exploring issues of class, sex, and gender, this smart, sexy debut by Corinne Sullivan shatters the black-and- white nature of victimhood, taking a close look at blame and moral ambiguity.
We've all heard news reports about the woman teacher who had an affair with her student. These are often young, pretty woman who the media loves to splash on television screens. They're often met with gross comments of how the student must have wanted to hook up with the teacher because of how good looking she is. "We didn't have teachers like that when I was in school", "He's a red blooded male so, of course, he wanted to sleep with her", etc. This often goes along with the narrative that the teacher couldn't help herself. She fell in love. Indecent, like Tampa by Alissa Nutting, breaks this narrative. Indecent doesn't vilify these women the same way Tampa did, but it doesn't make excuses for them either.

Corinne Sullivan's writing is impressive. Much like Tampa, it is the writing that prevents this novel from becoming a huge mess. It is crafted in such a way that makes you want to take this journey with the character, even as you cringe. Imogene's voice is pitch perfect for her character, and I am excited at the thought of whatever Corinne writes next.

Imogene is someone you pity. You certainly don't like her, and you often want to shake her for the choices she makes. I often found myself feeling second hand embarrassment and shame at many of  her actions. As a reader you instantly feel sorry for her, but you're also repulsed by her. She's a woman who never grew up. Her development was stunted at some point during her teenage years which combine with her deep insecurities and mental health issues to create the hot mess that is the Imogene we meet in this novel. She's not some mastermind. She's a deeply troubled young woman who quickly becomes single-mindedly focused.

There is almost two Adam Kipling's that are being presented in this novel. The cool, much more mature version that exists in Imogene's head, and the real version that is a typical teenage boy. I found it interesting that he is portrayed as the one pursing her, and it is true to an extent, without making excuses for Imogene's behaviour. It doesn't matter if he pursued her. She is the adult and authority figure. She is the one that should know better. There is a scene later on the book that resonated with me. Adam cries and mentions that everything is so messed up. He's a drunk mess a lot of time. These are indicators that perhaps the relationship with Imogene is impacting him in a way that Imogene simply cannot see. As the story is told entirely through her perspective it is a subtle hint that he may feel victimized deep down, even as Imogene crafts an entirely different reality in her head.

The relationship between Imogene and Adam is problematic for two reasons. It is not only against the policy of the school, but the novel takes the time to point out that Adam is not yet eighteen. There is a scene where Imogene is asked how old he is with the person pointing out that they hope he is over eighteen. Imogene's lack of reply is all the other person, and the reader, need to know. She either doesn't know, or knows and he is underage. It is strongly insinuated that it is the latter, and that makes it all the more clear that Imogene knows what she is doing is wrong. This novel could have made him eighteen and about to graduate. It would have still be a problematic relationship with the dynamics of the student/teacher imbalance. Corinne Sullivan, instead, takes the tougher route of making it illegal as well. As a result of this choice the ending may not sit well with everyone, but it feels entirely realistic and fitting.

This book will not be for everyone. It doesn't paint Imogene as some master manipulator predator. It doesn't paint Adam as a saintly victim. It lives in the messy grayness and embraces it. It doesn't make excuses for Imogene's actions, but instead offers reasons. It paints a picture of a deeply flawed, damaged, immature woman who also happens to engage in a highly inappropriate and illegal relationship. I recommend it for those who like well written, complex books that will leave you dying to dissect and discuss

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