Much better than what I've heard is lurking in New Adult...

Unteachable - Leah Raeder

Bullet Review:

The first half was strong and sexy.

The second half tried everything and floundered. I swear, pages got omitted or just disappeared - plots would get wrapped up in a paragraph, suddenly, we'd learn characters were filming when no indication had been made earlier.

I haven't read much New Adult, but it's good. Well-written, some actual drama.

If only authors would stop making all the teachers film and art and literature teachers, though, and give them more varied subjects. Heavy-handed movie references were embarrassingly heavy-handed.

Oh and the sex scenes were pretty hawt - at least at the beginning. In the second half, I wasn't sure what was going on and why, so I almost didn't care what happened.

Oh and way to undermine the "teachers aren't pedophiles!!" thought.

Full Review:

Maise O'Malley has one effed up life. Her mom runs a meth lab out of their house; Dad is missing all together. And Maise spends the time where she's not monitoring her mom's overdoses by sleeping with older men. It's at the fair where she meets a man and later has sex with him in his car. But she leaves him behind, afraid of what might be. Fast forward a few weeks to senior year starting and Maise realizes that "Evan" is Mr. Evan Wilke her film studies teacher.

Can they keep it together the whole year? What is even drawing them together - is it really love or is it just the danger of being caught? And what secret is Evan hiding from her?

I like older men; I joke with my dear girl friends that the silver-haired foxes really do it for me. The other thing I love is the teacher/student relationship. There is just something so sexy about a teacher and a student forming this bond.

That is what drew me to this book - that teacher/student relationship. And for much of the book I really did like what I was reading. I really think the first half was much more solid than the latter half - the latter half just felt like maybe Raeder wasn't sure what should happen. Or maybe she had to cut out scenes and such to fit it into a page count. Whatever the reason, the last 50 or so pages is what caused this to lose a star.

But the positives.

I really loved Maise. Finally, a woman who loves sex and is somewhat experienced! I'm tired of reading about all these sexless virgins that need to get with some domineering, borderline abusive boyfriend to learn how awesome sex is and become an overnight sex vixen. Women are sexual beings, people. No shame there.

I also liked Evan. Evan could easily have been that domineering boyfriend, but he wasn't. He respected Maise's limits, even though he was her teacher and much older than her. Oh, and I liked how he was actually older than her - none of this "she's 18, he's 23, oooooh, how DARING!" No. That's just lame.

I also loved how Raeder actually addressed the difficulties of such a relationship. They are both from different generations, different backgrounds. Both of them have their trials, and it isn't just washed away with sex. They also don't declare their love to each other and start going swoony-eyes all the time.

And yet...a major plot element in Evan's life kinda tarnishes the whole romance.

We learn that Evan is actually "Eric" and he changed his name because he had sex with a previous 17-year-old student and got her pregnant. This completely undermines Evan's declaration that he loves Maise and just makes the reader wonder - once Maise starts to get grey hairs or maybe even sooner, will Evan be chasing the next jail bait?

(show spoiler)


But really, it was old that the teacher taught film studies (is this done in high school? I was homeschooled, so please tell me!). Wow, here's a lot of heavy-handed allusions to classic movies! We can be ROMANTIC and ARTSY and *projectile vomit*. It particularly struck me as odd because Maise just seems to SUDDENLY want to be a film director. Where did THAT come from? And THAT is your ticket out of the backwater hole you live? To each his/her own!!

The other characters were mixed bag. I liked Maise's mother and Wesley, really didn't like how Hiyam (one of the only other major females in this book) was a b!tch, thought Siobhan was a bit too perfect for her own good (though I appreciated how Maise could actually have a decent role model), and wanted to love Gary, but hated how caricatured he was. In general, there weren't all that many females in this book (Mom, Siobhan, Britt, Hiyam, Park's girlfriend, etc.), and Maise could be rather judgmental about them.

The story is really where I have my problems. Again, the first half is solid as Maise and Evan tempt fate and have sex and figure out their feelings. But then you have a Gary Rivero subplot. And then a Hiyam wants coke subplot. And then Wesley is a creeper subplot. And then just all of a sudden, we learn that Maise has been using her cellphone to video record all these scenes to make this movie. So has Wesley. And their movies tread that line of what I would think would be acceptable to show in a high school film studies class. In fact, after that, I'm surprised that Evan wasn't asked to leave.

The conclusion flounders around as Maise and Evan figure out "What next?" and go back and forth and back and forth on whether or not to be together and figuring out how to wrap up the subplots as quickly as possible.

At least the ending is pretty sweet and appropriate, if it does lead to the reader wonder, "So, how long will THAT last?"

The sex scenes are very decent, pretty hot, but never shoved in just to meet a sex scene quota. It's pretty graphic, so if you don't like sex in your books, avoid.

I must admit to feeling a bit disappointed when I finished. It was good, but not the great awesomeness I was expecting - my fault for putting it too high on a pedestal. I realized after reading this that yes, I still do love teacher-student romances, but I prefer the college type: brooding college professor and young, inquisitive student. But again, this is my fault for not realizing it.

So at the end of the day, solid 4 stars for some good characters, some legitimate drama and some good sex scenes. This won't be a book for everyone as there is a LOT of swearing, sex, drug usage and talk of abuse. But in the market where New Adult seems to mean "virgins learning to have sex", this definitely bucks the trend and has something new and interesting to say.