20/03/2014

Review: Unteachable {Leah Raeder}


 
I met him at a carnival, of all places. It was the summer I turned eighteen, in a chaos of neon lights and cheap thrills. We had one night: intense, scary and real, before I ran away. Like I always do.

But I couldn't run far enough. I knew him as Evan that night, but then I walked into school and he became Mr. Wilke. My teacher.

In the movies this would have a happy ending. I'd grown up, love, lose and learn. And I'd move on. But in real life you don't pray for happy endings, you pray for it to never end.

 

 
Unteachable is a hard book to review because teacher/student relationships creep me out and I don't find them the least bit sexy. But this is such an intoxicating book that I couldn't tear myself away from it.

This is a romance (and a steamy one at that), but it's also a coming-of-age story. It's about Maise finding out who she is, learning what's best for her and taking her first steps into an adult world. It's about her fighting to grow up, but also struggling to stay young. And it's about the ups and downs that come with staying true to your heart.

Maise is bitter, cynical and unabashedly blunt. She says exactly what's on her mind, swears like a sailor and is completely charged by sex. She's a loose canon on the path to self-destruction and what starts out as one more attempt to throw herself over the proverbial railing turns into something far more.

Maise has a lot of pain. Her father left and her mother is a drug addict who's not beyond pimping out her own daughter and stealing all of her money, which leaves Maise without any kind of role model or any self-respect. Unteachable captures Maise's raw struggle and the growing darkness inside of her. This isn't a teen rebelling for the sake of rebelling, but someone with real issues who's trying everything she can to escape.  

There's a haunting wistfulness to Raeder's writing; a beautiful sense of serenity that echoes from her descriptions, coupled with gritty and crude characters that make for uniquely organic, melancholic prose.

This book is narrated in the past tense, which allows Maise to interject in her own story with ambiguous hindsight. This really helps create an almost addictive sense of anxiety, by foreboding what's to come, but leaving us with hope that things might work out.

The romance was addictive. I liked how this novel didn't try to justify it by making Evan really young, which a lot of novels that cover this subject seem to do. Instead, Unteachable thrives on how wrong the relationship is and explores the idea that the forbidden aspect is what keeps Maise and Evan going back to each other. 

They don't try and ignore that he is her teacher, but instead love the thrill of mentioning it and testing their boundaries. Leah Raeder knows how to write steamy scenes, and for the most part the intense passion she was able to portray left me willing to gloss over the creepiness of the situation. It even made me forget how boring Evan was. And yes, I did find him boring. 

Evan wasn't a love interest I swooned over, but I don't think I was supposed to. I was, however, swooning over his scenes with Maise, and found myself rooting for them. In my opinion, it wasn't Evan we were supposed to be invested in, but his relationship with Maise. And that worked for me.

The one gripe I did have was that the intensely steamy parts took up a little too much of the book. There were a lot of very descriptive sex scenes that went on for pages and they ended up being a little repetitive.

Unteachable pushes your boundaries, making you re-evaluate how you define right and wrong. It hits you over and over with its desperately gritty storyline and characters that are intensely raw and well-captured. The is a story charged with passion and the ending will leave you with a small, knowing smirk, that makes the whole journey worthwhile.

"Part of falling in love with someone is actually falling in love with yourself. Realising that you're gorgeous, you're fearless and unpredictable, you're a firecracker spitting light and entrancing a hundred faces as they stare up at you with starry eyes." 

 

 

Allie is a Pimm's-obsessed reader, who dreams of road tripping over America, learning to surf & becoming fluent in all the languages of her heritage (which, sadly, does not include Elvish). If she's not reading or blogging, you can find her catching up on Teen Wolf, or reigning supreme with Scrabble/Mario Kart.
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29 comments:

  1. I tried this, but it wasn't for me at the time. May give it one more go someday, but the writing, the characters and the plot just wasn't for me at all. I do agree that the writing is haunting in many ways and definitely different. I'm glad that despite the taboo and the creeped out feeling you still rooted for this couple even if the love interest was boring in your eyes. Heh. I'm glad you liked this one:)

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    1. I can see why it wouldn't be for some people. I was unsure at first, but I ended up being really captivated by it :D

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  2. Sometimes books do play up the sex a bit too much, but that's great you liked the story overall. I don't really mind books with student/teacher relationships but it all depends on the situation and how they handle the topic. It sounds like this one was done well since you're supposed to realize how wrong it all is.

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    1. Especially NA books! I feel like they really push the sex aspect and sometimes the story suffers for it

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  3. I do like that cover...but I've yet to get myself interested in NA. :/ I really like plot and characters over romance, although Maise sounds like a really well written character (I like that name, too! Maise...awesome.) And the whole teacher/student thing kind of creeps me out too.

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    1. Yeah NA is not my cup of tea AT ALL. I tend to steer clear of all NA books. But this one got such good reviews, I figured I'd check it out and I ended up being pretty surprised.

      It's a very raw, real book and that's part of it's charm. It doesn't try too hard to build up this perfect flowery romance, or perfectly flawed characters. Everything is blunt and harsh and full of bright lights. It was a nice change from the usual NA, which I feel always follows the same story

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  4. One of my friends suggested this one to me, but I am not really into this genre. Glad you enjoyed it!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

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    1. It's quite a hit and miss genre really, isn't it? This is one of the only NA books I've read and enjoyed, because I really feel like it took a different approach and didn't just recycle the same old story. Give it a go, it might surprise you :) it surprised me

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  5. Hmm, I like the sound of this one because I have read some good student/teacher books and although IRL I never want that line to be crossed, I am drawn to it like the weirdo I am.

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    1. Haha you're not a weirdo - it's an intense relationship that brings a lot of angst, which is really want people want from romances :) this is just one relationship that takes it to the extreme lol

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  6. I definitely think I would enjoy this one, it reminds me of Drowning Instinct, which I really loved. And for some reason, I don't mind the student teacher thing as long as it works well. The only thing I am a little iffy on would be the romance scenes, that seems a little too much. I LOVE the way you described the writing though, how it has meaning and the author is pretty blatant about everything.

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    1. Oooh, I've never heard of Drowning Instinct before! I'll Goodreads stalk it in a mo :)

      Yeah the romantic scenes are very intense and passionate and described in quite a lot of detail, so if you're a bit iffy on stuff like that you might want to give this one a miss! Also the phrase 'f*ck me' is used SO OFTEN in these scenes. It kind of made me cringe a bit lol.

      BUT that's part of what makes this book realistic. It's so blunt and there's a weird kind of beauty in that

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  7. I'm with Cait... I'm still not into the whole "new adult" craze, but this one definitely sounds interesting! :D If I'm in a mood for a romance read, I'll definitely have to pick this up! The whole portrayal of the student/teacher relationship definitely sounds like it's fresh and makes you really think; and I'm all for that! Like you said, it's always nice to read the different side of the story. And the characters sound fantastic and well-developed as well...which is a HUGE yeah! in my mind.

    Thanks so much for sharing Allie, and, as always, brilliant review! xD

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

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    1. New Adult so often sacrifices story for sex, that it's definitely not a genre I'm going to devote a lot of time to. BUT Unteachable was kind of a NA gem. It really made me think and really hit me hard; there were so many issues tackled. Yes, there was a big focus on sex, but for once the story didn't suffer because of it. Which is always nice!

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  8. I read your review of this on Goodreads. I also find those relationships really squicky but I have heard good things about this and I do want to try it!
    Thanks so much for stopping by! Jen @ YA Romantics

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    1. It just makes me shudder whenever I think about it! But I do really love that this book didn't shy away from it and basically said 'this is wrong. Deal with it'. It was kind of awesome in that way.

      I'd recommend giving it a go. It's a refreshingly blunt book!

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  9. Great review Allie! I loved how you said the novel didn't try and justify their relationship, because let's face it, it's completely creepy. Just the fact how it's filled with sex scenes too, I don't think I can read this book. I find other's opinions on it fascinating though.

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    1. It is the most creepy thing in Creeptown. That's why I always get so frustrated when, in TV shows etc., the teacher is only in his early twenties or something. Like that's supposed to make it okay? In Unteachable Evan was in his late thirties (if I remember right), so it kind of embraced the creep factor lol.

      Yeah, if you're not a fan of abundant sex scenes I'd probably give this a miss. I got quite tired of them after a while!

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  10. Great review! I have been contemplating this one for a while now and this review has made me determined to get it on payday. I have my issues with NA at times but this one seems too intriguing to pass up. I am not a fan of a book that's got far too many sex scenes in, only because, as you pointed out, they can get a bit repetitive. Thanks for the great review :)

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    1. NA is so hit and miss for me! I tend to stay away from it, if I'm honest, but after seeing all the great reviews of this I had to pick it up. I'm so glad I did because I feel like, unlike most NA books, the plot wasn't pushed aside just for more sex scenes. Yes, there were a lot here, but the storyline and characters still shone through, which is something I feel like a lot of NA books don't do

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  11. I can't seem to shake off the feeling that the premise of the NA genre will always be the same. A messed-up main character and I got over that really fast. But I've been wanting to read Unteachable and your review makes me think that it's all how I thought it'd be. An engaging plot and more sex scenes than the average reader can handle. But I'm willing to read Unteachable sometime in the future.

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    1. I definitely agree that NA always follows that premise of the messed-up heroine and an abundance of sex lol (which is why I tend to steer clear of the genre). But I feel like Unteachable took that premise and then times it by a thousand. It didn't try to be gritty, like most NA books do. Instead it simply WAS gritty.

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  12. Though this book doesn't look like it's for me, I get more intrigued every time I read a review.
    -Scott Reads It

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    1. Give it a go and you might find yourself surprised – NA has never been my thing, but I'm glad I gave this a go, because it really took the story we've seen over and over and crafted something new from it.

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  13. I just finished this book and loved it. Yes, I do agree that this kind of forbidden love is quite creepy, but the way the author wrote the book was so raw and fresh, and really passionate. Brilliant review, Allie!
    - Sporadic Reads

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    1. That's what I loved post – how completely raw it was! Raeder didn't hold back at all; she was just like 'this is my topic and I am ROLLING with it'.

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  14. I haven't read any of Leah Raeder's books. I might try it.

    -Jordan

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    1. It's worth a go! It was my first book of hers too :D

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  15. Aww, I'm actually very curious about this book, since you know, those neon-ish cover is pretty O.O
    Maise also seems like an interesting character, with her background and all. But sad to hear that Evan is mostly boring and the steamy scene was done over and over again :(
    Still going to try this one, though. Thanks for sharing!

    Neysa @ Papier Revue

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