Unteachable by Leah Raeder
I knew going in that this book had great buzz. Raves for Leah Raeder’s writing and her ability to hold on to the honest portrayals of situations that are controversial and more often found in headlines with the appropriate amount of censure and judgment. And yes, the relationship at the center of this story is uncomfortable, but uniquely honest and developed with emotion and the insight of remove, even as you can’t help but empathize with the protagonist.
Maise has had an interesting life: her mother is desperately in need of rehab and Maise has been more parent than child for most of her eighteen years. With the attitude born from her ability to fend for herself, yet not quite adult enough to make the best decisions, her life is ready to take a turn for the different. Now out of high school and preparing to enter film school in the fall, she is just biding her time until she heads off to pursue her own dreams.
A quick encounter at the fair results in a hot hook-up, and leaves Maise conflicted about her own no-strings, no attachments policy. There was a connection with Evan that she can’t seem to forget, opening the door that contains her “what if things were different” thoughts in a safe place. Like Pandora’s Box, the questions are released and grab her at the most inconvenient times.
When she finally starts on her own journey and follows her dreams, who should be teaching her film class but Evan: the one night man from the fair.
Here the two explore the connection despite the forbidden (or frowned upon) nature of the relationship. Students should not date teachers, nor vice versa. Neither is an actor, and their connection and inability to mask the attraction between them draws attention and rumors, and oh what a roller coaster ride the story becomes. The issues of power and lack thereof, the discrepancy in their ages and maturity levels, and the questions of honesty between them, even as they are dishonest with everyone else in their lives becomes paramount.
Unmasking the lies that we tell ourselves, let alone others, about our relationships, and how people will often fill the needs of others, in real or imagined ways. The excitement added from something being forbidden, and what happens when that label is removed, can the relationship stand as solidly in the light of day. Series of questions and conundrums that are present but unasked for the most part, as we travel with Maise navigating her new life.
Secondary characters are well developed, Wesley is the first real friend in Maise’s life and his input and interactions with her are wonderful and insightful. The unveiling of the relationship, replete with blackmail, drugs and lies are devastating to Maise, her worries about the relationship’s staying power is in question. Wesley is the one person who sees both the emotional and psychological toll the relationship has taken on her, and his steadfast support is set up to be longer lasting than any kerfuffle or upheaval.
Narration in this story is provided by Grace Grant, and she has a knack of portraying the ‘slightly broken and lost’ characters to perfection. There is a curious mix of steely determination and tentative youth that surround Maise, and the portrayal enhances that feeling as Grant pulls out the emotional subtext that is up to the reader to discover as they read without overplaying or dancing into melodrama. This is a young girl, despite her experience, and she thinks and dreams as all young girls do, learning her way into adulthood with mistakes and missteps. Grant places the adult one moment, scared child the next elements into her performance, never missing a step, while telling the story as written. Other characters are added with nuanced variations in pitch and delivery, and the story is one to sit back and enjoy, allowing the words to capture your emotions and heart.
A story that attacks a difficult subject with grace and talent, Leah Raeder has not removed the shocking moments, but presented them in ways that helps the reader to understand why Maise is in the situation, and what sort of toll it will take on her life going forward.
Stars: Overall: 4 Narration: 4 Story: 4
Author: Leah Raeder
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Narrator: Grace Grant
Published by: Atria Books
Published on: 24 March 2014
Source: Simon and Schuster Audio
Audio Length: 9 Hours: 49 minutes
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ AllRomance ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google
About the Book:
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.
A copy of this title was provided via Simon and Schuster Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.