Published by Atria Books on November 11, 2014
Genres: adult, contemporary
Pages: 320 pages
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads
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.
Sometimes when you take a chance on an indie book, you discover something incredibly special. I felt that way with Angelfall and And All the Stars, and I feel that way again with Unteachable by Leah Raeder. It’s a book I had no intention of reviewing, but when I finished it, the words just came pouring out! I’ve included my updated 2 am review below. But before that, you should know:
This is not a YA book. It’s a new adult novel with a seriously messed up romance, in which high school senior Maisie enters into a relationship with one of her teachers. This isn’t the kind of relationship that is ever okay in real life, which is why I initially hesitated about covering it here at the blog. While all of us read across a wide variety of genres, I am mindful of the responsibility we have to our younger readers, and would remind our readers that the allure of the forbidden is what often triggers sexual fantasy.
I feel strongly about this book’s literary merit, however, and I think many adult YA readers would find this book compelling. I’m fascinated by what drives human beings to behave in ways that they know are destructive and unhealthy, and Unteachable explores one such provocative scenario with intelligence, passion, and boldness. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this book long after I finished it…and if you’re an open-minded reader, you might just feel that way, too.
This is, by far, the most well-written romance I’ve read to date in the dubious “new adult” category–not to mention one of the best in the indie press one. There are a handful of other NAs that I’ve liked, among them One & Only, Foreplay, Faking It, Double Clutch, and Easy, but this one’s much closer to the mature YA/NA writing of The Sea of Tranquility, or even an adult literary fiction style. Albeit with characters and problems that are a lot more fucked up.
This story is basically a much better version of Slammed, which has gotten a lot of attention but I didn’t find all that compelling, particularly in the too-honorable-to-be-true teacher, and also makes an interesting companion piece to the disturbingly compelling Tampa. Unteachable is honest about how the fantasy of the older man/forbidden relationship plays into Maise’s intense relationship with her teacher Evan, as well as mostly honest in Evan’s fixation on her. It’s filled with the kind of lust and sweat and regret that you rarely get in New Adult titles, maybe because so many of them are too busy trying to appeal to YA readers that they aren’t pushing the envelope enough, or maybe just don’t have that much insight to share.
I think one of the most bold things about this book is that as messed up as the idea of this relationship is, it’s interesting to see how honestly Maise is portrayed. She’s not an innocent ripe for seduction, and her awareness of her own femininity and sexual power is shown in a way you don’t ever see in contemporary romances–I mean, why is it that you mostly only get that in urban fantasy? Most women who are 18 are aware of the potency of their attractiveness and youthfulness on some level, even if they aren’t mature enough to fully understand the consequences of their actions–or the lack of responsibility, and what that implies, in his. But the situation is put into the right context later on. I do think that a little more time could have been spent on View Spoiler »Evan/Eric’s past relationship, and more proof that this wasn’t just a predilection for teenage girls. Because honestly, to me, that’s how the situation still feels, and I don’t know if Maise’s just fooling herself. It’s pretty creepy, but you knew that going into this story… « Hide Spoiler, and the story might wrap up a little too neatly in some ways. But I’m okay with it, because there is a lot of attention paid to things that are also important, and the story and writing exceeded my expectations in most ways. I also like that the book gives you just enough back story for Maise being the way she is, and gives her enough self-awareness to be sarcastic/realistic about it, without becoming a cliched sobfest.
Incidentally, while the sex is extremely well-written and fairly graphic (and there’s a good amount of it, so beware, readers who like clean romances), this isn’t just sexed-up YA, as it’s not just about an obsessive romance; there’s real emotional connection between these two, as well as between all the well-drawn secondary characters. View Spoiler »Whether Evan’s attraction to her stays as she gets older, I’m not sure. But it’s an escapist fantasy romance book, so it’s not going to get into that. « Hide Spoiler Unteachable is also rounded out with worries about parents, career, identity, college, friendships–you know, all those things that NA is purportedly about but rarely is.
Unteachable was originally published by a small independent publisher, but has since been picked up by Atria Books, to be released with the new, pictured cover on October 14, 2014. The author’s next book, Black Iris, will be out from Atria in May 2015. I am very excited to see what this talented author will offer us next.
Win an advance copy of Unteachable!
Thanks to Leah Raeder and Atria Books, we have an ARC of the new edition of Unteachable to give away to our readers! It features the vibrant new cover artwork pictured above. All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us why you’re interested in reading this book and/or what your favorite New Adult titles are!
Open to U.S. and Canadian residents aged 18 and older.
Please remember: this is an NA/adult title with explicit sexual themes and content, and is therefore not suitable/recommended by us for most minors. That being said, adult readers who enjoy the youthful vibe of YA romances but are interested in exploring books with more sensual content should find this an easy transition.
Giveaway copy provided by the publisher and author.
If you’re a fairly liberal reader who enjoys boundary-pushing romance and aren’t squeamish about explicit content, give Unteachable a try. Have you read any other New Adult titles that you would recommend to us?