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Unteachable - Leah Raeder 3.5 stars

I haven’t read many student-teacher romance novels but I do love themes of forbidden love. There’s something thrilling about pursuing something that’s considered immoral in the eyes of others. What I loved about this was that for the two main characters, there was no moral dilemma about what they got themselves into. The cliché situation would be them trying to fight their feelings and convincing themselves that a relationship between them would be wrong. The exact opposite happens here.

Maise O’Malley is quite an interesting heroine. I liked her from the get go. She was the rebel with a cause, determined to turn her back from her unpleasant upbringing. I was instantly drawn to her unique “voice.” Have you read the blurb? She sounds exactly like that the entire time. I thought she’d turn out to be a surly, self-destructive teenager at first but she was actually very self-aware and wise beyond her years. On one hand I admire her boldness and her fierce determination, but on the other hand she seems like the character I love to hate – that girl who thinks she’s better than everyone else (and has but one friend as a consequence.) She’s a cynical, sardonic bitch one moment and then an innocent girl talking about stars and galaxies with childlike wonder the next.

If I was rating this book for the story alone, it would have easily been a 4-star read for me. The plot was very engaging and the whole feel of the story is very romantic. Evan doesn’t say much but everything he says and does carry so much weight. A look here, a touch there – they’re all electrifying. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to learn much about him since this story was very heroine-centred, but I’d have loved to know what caused him to be as broken as he was. He may have the upper hand in years and experience but he seems to be the one who is less assured, the one who has more needs, and the one who’s more emotionally unstable. Between him and Maise, I worry for his heart more, which is why I wasn’t entirely happy with the ending. The reason why this wouldn’t have been a 5-star for me is that it didn’t really take me to places emotionally. I felt the angst, yes, but I never doubted for a moment that Maise wouldn’t be able to get herself out of whatever rut she was in. I never saw any weaknesses, (even her decision to leave Evan was an act of strength and bravery to me), never saw any vulnerability for a believable amount of time. I guess I just prefer my characters to have life-altering realizations that would take them from Point A to Point B in the character development scale. I want to see them make their own mistakes and learn from them, not just surface from problems thrown at them by external factors.

Lastly, I decided on that rating because the writing style and some inner monologue really bugged me (to the extent that I almost DNFed this.) I felt that I should be impressed by the poetic narration and uncommon choice of words (e.g. lugubriously, catharsis of rain, xyphoid process, liminal space, mellifluous voice, diaphanous sundress, ephemeral, post-coital tristesse, sepulchral loft, chthonic horror, etc.) but I thought they were a bit overdone. I know, I know. I should be thankful that I’m forced to expand my vocabulary but the narration just sounded unnatural and bizarre to me at times.

I was also bothered by the halting, fragmented sentences that were prevalent throughout the entire book.
But right then, that sort of teenage boy angst was comforting. Familiar. A simple toy I could pick up and understand, instantly. Ballast against Mr. Wilke and whatever was happening between us.
The final bell rang.
My teacher stood up, smiling. An open, ordinary smile.


A car drove past, a face turning to us.
We were utterly still.
Another icy dagger, this time hitting the crown of my head.
Then it all came at once, the sky exploding into water.

If Ms. Reader intended for those scenes to be cinematic in order to blend with the filmmaking theme in the story then I guess that was a brilliant idea. But for me? It was very hard to read. It was very cut-and-paste and lacking fluidity, like reading an illustrated storyboard instead of a script.

I don’t know... I have mixed feelings about the writing. I thought some parts were beautiful and that some thoughts were really introspective and smart and funny.
Thanks, Dad, for leaving a huge void in my life that Freud says has to be filled with dick.


The sky was so full and pregnant you could punch a hole in it and douse the world with blue paint.


“Oh my god,” I said. “You’re the mob wife. You won’t leave me, even though there’s a price on my head.”
(my favourite line in the book)


I was still a teenager, and part of being a teenager was constantly checking your answers against everyone else’s. What did you get for number four? Is falling in love with someone twice your age gross, weird, amazing, or all of the above?

And then there were parts that were just begging for an eye roll. I love that Ms. Reader owned up to the fact that she wrote pretentious, lyrical stuff because it did feel, at times, crammed with pompous dialogue and narrative.
I felt disembodied again, but this time because my body was too full to contain me, too crowded with light and stars and shimmering galaxies like pinwheels studded with diamonds, spinning their brilliance into the void without caring whether it would ever be seen, just needing to shine. The bed beneath me was cloud, my skin a sheet of moonlight lying atop it. And this man, this amazing, impossible man, was the sun.


I closed my eyes. Pushed my senses to the tips of my fingers and toes, and felt like I held the world in my hands, a luminous sapphire veined with light and revolving slowly in the sun, ridiculously, absurdly beautiful.


My skin stretched tight. My heart pressed right up against the bars of my ribs. I lay in the snow and watched the stars and even the Earth wasn’t strong enough to hold me down. A stronger gravity pulled at me. And pulled. And pulled.


Raising the camera was his first impulse; mine was to feel, to let the world crash against my skin.

If you don’t find anything absurd with all that then forget it, it’s obviously just me. It's not that I don’t appreciate poetic declarations of feelings or the use of magical imagery to convey emotions. I do love them in fiction... in small doses. Here, they feel misplaced.

Again, maybe it's just me.