Monday, March 16, 2015

Book review: Unteachable by Leah Reader

What would you do if you discovered that the man you had a one night stand with, is also your new film studies teacher?
Disclaimer:

This review appeared first on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.
 

You can purchase a copy of the book via Raru.co.za


Unteachable by Leah Raeder(Published by Atria in 2013)
I am not a fan of New Adult fiction.  Really I’m not.  From what I’ve previously experienced, books belonging to this genre have shown itself to be incredibly problematic for so many reasons. 

The main problem for me, is that whenever I’m reading a book that falls within this category, I always feel like I’m reading the same book with just a different cover (although, I should add that even the covers tend to feel the same).

Thus, Leah Reader’s Unteachable is not a concept that hasn’t been done before.

In fact, in almost every genre, you’ll always find that one story that’s littered with some form of illicit romance (*cough* Game of Thrones *cough*).

Not everyone gets this right though, and it’s particularly problematic within the new adult fiction market, simply because of how badly the relationship dynamic is portrayed.

When I first picked up Unteachable, I was certainly not expecting to be wowed, and yet, from the moment I started reading, Leah’s beautiful and exquisitely lyrical prose had me floating on a cloud of literary heaven.

I found myself swept up in the drama, (amazingly enough) rooting for this twisted relationship and really having an appreciation for the way that the icky subjects were handled.

In the beginning of the novel, we first meet 18-year old Maise O’ Malley at a carnival. Maise is bold, brash, sexually mature and completely owns her confidence.  She’s the kind of character that not everyone will warm up to at first, simply because she comes across as being incredibly abrasive and sexually aggressive.

Frankly, I found myself really liking her.

So, often when men are portrayed in this manner, they’re labelled as being cocky and confident, and yet, are still seen as likeable; but when the roles are reversed and you come across characters like Maise, who is so self-aware of the power her physical beauty holds over men, then labels like “slutty” and “vain” are quickly thrown around.

To see Leah Raeder tackling this sexist double-standard head on is nothing short of refreshing - and so very welcome.

When Maise meets Evan at the carnival, the attraction is immediate and intense. After hooking up, she’s convinced she’ll never see him again – and usually, that’s something she’d prefer.

Except, this time around, she can’t stop thinking about him.

When she enrolls into film school, she doesn’t expect to see him again, except that when she  finally does, she discovers that he’s her new film studies teacher. 

Of course they do try to stay away from each other, but the chemistry between them proves to be too irresistible; and before long, they find themselves hurtling headlong into a relationship punctuated with secrets, lies and more passion than both of them can handle.

It’s not long before life throws both of them yet another curveball and the two are left to pick up the pieces and examine their own pasts before they can even think of the possibility of having a future together. 

Leah Raeder’s Unteachable is truly an impressive book.  It’s well-written and deals with a variety of hard-hitting topics in a manner that is realistic, touching and daringly honest.

From issues of abandonment and drug abuse, to stalking and capturing the essence of a taboo romance, it is an excellent read.

It’s the kind of book that’s not meant to make you feel comfortable, but rather to reflect on the characters’ actions and how their home life impacts on the decisions that lead them on their way.

I’m not here to say that I was rooting for the student-teacher couple (even though this relationship is very well drawn out); instead I’m here to commend this book for highlighting the messed up dynamics of a story that touches on topics that are often swept under the carpet and diluted with water to make it more palatable.

Give it a read.  I, for one, am glad that I did.

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