Review: Unteachable by Leah Raeder

12 November, 2013 Reviews 17 comments

Review: Unteachable by Leah RaederUnteachable by Leah Raeder
Series: Standalone
Published by Self-Published on July 27th 2013
Format: eBook
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult
Pages: 356
Source: Purchased
GoodreadsGood BooksAmazon
four-half-stars
This novel contains graphic sexual content and strong language. It is intended for mature readers.

I met him at a carnival, of all corny places. The summer I turned eighteen, in that chaos of neon lights and cheap thrills, I met a man so sweet, so beautiful, he seemed to come from another world. We had one night: intense, scary, real. Then I ran, like I always do. Because I didn’t want to be abandoned again.

But I couldn’t run far enough.

I knew him as Evan that night. When I walked into his classroom, he became Mr. Wilke.

My teacher.

I don’t know if what we’re doing is wrong. The rules say one thing; my heart says screw the rules. I can’t let him lose his job. And I can’t lose him.

In the movies, this would have a happy ending. I grow up. I love, I lose, I learn. And I move on. But this is life, and there’s no script. You make it up as you go along.

And you don’t pray for a happy ending. You pray for it to never end.

What the hell am I? I thought. Too old to be a real teenager, too young to drink. Old enough to die in a war, fuck grown men, and be completely confused about what I was doing with my life.

One of the most important points I see argued when it comes to the classification of New Adult novels is, where does it fit? The debate seems to be evenly spit with each side categorizing it as either YA or Adult with a smaller portion claiming it is of its own category. And I get, because it is a hard to place, especially when YA itself frequently blurs the lines. In the case of Unteachable, however, I think the above quote really nails down what some are trying to say. There is a time in our lives when people feel neither teenaged or adult, neither fully grown or child-like. Certain privileges are afforded to you, while others remain outside your grasp. Through it all, you struggle to find a way to fit into this small space that passes by in the blink of an eye.

It would be a mistake to call Maise your average teenager, because she’s far from that label with her drug dealing mom and broken home. Forced to grow up at an early age and take care of herself, she sees the world entirely differently than her classmates. But she also seeks out older male lovers to fill the void of a male figure in her life.

Thanks, Dad, for leaving a huge void in my life that Freud says has to be filled with dick. 

Maise is blunt, unpredictable, hot-headed, strong-willed, independent, flawed, brave, passionate and insecure all in one. After a night of of passion with a guy she meets at a carnival, she finds out that he is her new film teacher. Instead of breaking things off like she probably should have, they explore the limits of their relationship. Secret meetings away from school and make-out sessions after class make up the most of their relationship. But things get complicated when other classmates start to notice Maise’s odd behavior and familiarity with their teacher and the risks the couple start to take.

My face lit up with dark glee. “I can be discreet. I can be Harriet the fucking Spy.”

Unfortunately for Maise, she was no Harriet the Spy. And if anyone remembers what happened to poor Harriet, she got sloppy and found out by the end. The moments when Maise did a few stupid things had me shaking my head. It was fascinating to see their relationship because Maise constantly wondered what it was about Mr. Wilke that attracted her. Was is a legitimate connection between two people? Or was it just the taboo of having private after school sessions her teacher?

Is falling in love with someone twice your age gross, weird, amazing, or all of the above? The secrecy insulated me in a vacuum-sealed bubble. I could only ask myself, How does this feel? Is this good? Is this right? And the only answer I ever got was my own echo.

I couldn’t help but wonder if Maise was even emotionally ready for such a relationship when it seemed to turn into an obsession for her. Suddenly, keeping Mr. Wilke was all she could think about, she second guessed herself more, she got desperate for his attention and jealous. But at the same time Mr. Wilke displays uncertainty of the “rightness” of his actions and struggles with his feelings for Maise.

“I can’t hold on to you. You’re like that shooting star. Just a trail of fire in my hands.”

I admit to being drawn to this book simply for the taboo factor. As much as I love YA, every once in a while, it’s nice to branch out to something completely left field. I mean, realistically, there is only so much pent-up sexual frustration, coupled with teenaged wangst, I can take before my head explodes. So thank goodness that Unteachable was around to give me the sexy times and love in such a poetic, lyrical way.

Part of falling in love with someone is actually falling in love with yourself. Realizing that you’re gorgeous, you’re fearless, and unpredictable, you’re a firecracker spitting light, entrancing a hundred faces that stare up at you with starry eyes.

What I loved best about Unteachable was Raeder’s prose. I love how Maise is a pretentious protagonist without actually seeming unrealistic. *Cough* The Fault in Our Stars *Cough* I love how hard I could relate to her feelings of not truly fitting into her world or society. I love how she could infuriate me on one page, make me laugh on another and root for her fiercely by the last. I love how Raeder’s prose wrapped itself around my brain like a blanket and set off fireworks in my mind.

“I’m not pulling the age card, I swear. But there’s something I believe. You should love something whole you have it, love it fully and without reservations, even if you know you’ll lose it someday. We lose everything. If you’re trying to avoid loss, there’s no point in taking another breath, or letting your heart beat one more time. It all ends.” His fingers curled around mine. “That’s all life is. Breathing in, breathing out. The space between two breaths.”

And I love how by the end of this book I cared so deeply for the characters, my feels fell out of my eyeballs.

What's happening to me?

Very rarely do I see myself re-reading a book, but, guys? THIS BOOK. I would re-read the shit out of it. In fact, I would read anything Raeder wrote. Unteachable is a gem that gave me a bazillion happy sighs. It’s lyrical, brilliantly addictive and passionate. HIGHLY recommended.

*And since Unteachable had so many delicious sexy time moments and it’s a Kindle lending title, I’m sending it to Kat for some Cuddlebuggery Reading Time. ;)

Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker and fangirl, YA Books Central editor and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.
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17 Responses to “Review: Unteachable by Leah Raeder”

  1. Cathryn

    I’m so glad you liked this book. I read it several months ago and LOVED IT!!! I hope Kat chooses this for her next Cuddlebuggery Reading Times.

  2. Sheri

    Did you notice how much this was like Twilight? Disenfranchised heroine, forbidden, obsessive love, love triangle with a much more appropriate guy that she wants to pretend is her brother and in the end, the more appropriate guy ends up accepting the crumbs while while the inappropriate relationship wins out. I couldn’t get past that. I’m waiting for the sequel, wherein Maise and Evan have a baby that they neglect because all they want to do is have sex and Wesley steps forward to raise it from them.

    • Steph Sinclair
      Twitter:

      Huh, that’s interesting. I didn’t notice that at all. I think what worked for me was the fact that the characters knew they were a messed up pair and that their relationship didn’t feel glorified as something to aspire to.

  3. Meg Morley

    1. “I mean, realistically, there is only so much pent-up sexual frustration, coupled with teenaged wangst, I can take before my head explodes.” <– so true.

    2. This book blindsided me. It was so beautiful and messed up and amazing and moving and I wanted to keep reading it forever. Going in, I wasn't sure how it was going to work. The subject matter is tricky and could easily skew towards the trite, cheap thrill end of the spectrum or be really skeezy and gross but it wasn't AT. ALL. I think the unflinching, raw honest approach Raeder takes is so powerful and makes it work. She's completely open about the fact that these characters are broken and not making good decisions but then you end up completely rooting for them anyway.

    3. By the end of the book, my eye holes were leaking as well. Ok, gushing. Also, WELL GIF-ED.

    I'm so glad you loved it!

    • Steph Sinclair
      Twitter:

      AKHDIDHNFJKBJ!!

      I know, Meg! I was like, “NOOOO DON’T END YET!” I just wanted to heal the characters. They could use a good hug.

      I didn’t think I would like the ending and I was unsure of how Raeder would end it, but then my eyes were leaking tears and joy. :D

  4. Christianna

    This one sounds like a fantastic NA! I’m always on the hunt for those, and we all know they don’t come around all the time! Thanks for the honest review and all of the awesome quotes. The writing sounds so pretty!

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