Unteachable – Leah Raeder (Reading Challenge #3)
I read in a review that Unteachable “creates an atmosphere of such feverish intensity you feel a little high, a little out of control, just by reading it.” That’s true: the writing makes the experience of reading it feel as hot and disorientating and messy as the teacher-student romance. Plus, the main character is smart, funny, and sarcastic. And who doesn’t like a love that, were it exposed, would be a scandal?
The forbidden romance is the draw, yet throughout Raeder ensures readers know that Maise is 18; that they met before school started (when he didn’t know her real age); that despite any ethical boundaries they’re leaping over, nothing they’re doing is technically illegal.
And yet … how can a story sustain a relationship like that without the guy becoming a creep?
I’m not sure that it can. Raeder tries hard to keep him from being a loser. (One tactic, I think, was to display his emotional sincerity, but that backfired for me. Seriously, what is up with all the crying in these romance books?) And it wasn’t like I found him revolting. But everything he did that was kind or encouraging or sexy was tainted by this glaze of pathetic I couldn’t shake off him: You’re a 33-year-old teacher repeatedly sleeping with your eighteen-year-old student. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?
I really did like lots about this story, but it was just a smidgen too sordid for me, and by the end I was rooting for Maise to move on alone, at least for now.
It’s pretty accepted that romance works have a happily-ever-after (HEA) ending. But I want to read some stuff that doesn’t. How about: the guy screws everything up by being an asshole (typical), is too scared to make things right (also typical), and continues to fail to find the courage to do anything about it. THE END.
That may seem disappointing, but it leaves room for any number of other heart-fluttering, and hopeful, endings: the smoldering glances, from across the airport, to the one who got away; the five-years-down-the-road epilogue; the heroine discovering herself and her true worth, etc.
I love a good HEA, but Unteachable’s left me with the scrunched-up face: it was happy, but I wasn’t exactly happy for it.