Book Review: Unteachable by Leah Raeder

unteachable

Favourite quotes:

“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”.

“None of us actually grow up. We get bigger, and older, but part of us always retains that small rabbit heart, trembling furiously, secretively, with wonder and fear. There’s no irony in it. No semantics or subtext. Only red blood and green grass and silver stars”.

“That’s how you know someone loves you. When they want you to be happy even in the part of life they’ll never see”.

 

Maise O’Malley hasn’t had the easiest life – what with a drug-dealing mother and her countless pervy boyfriends. What she wants the most is to get out of the small Missourri town and go to a good film school. A hook-up with an older guy at a carnival, no matter how erotic, intense and emotion-filled, isn’t going to get in the way of that – Maise likes to leave them before they leave her. However, the older guy turns out to be none other than Maise’s film studies teacher, and an amazing one at that. Maise is eighteen, Evan is in his early thirties, but what they feel for each other is too intense to be avoided. He sees beyond the tough exterior she projects on the people around her, and he appreciates her wit, her courage, her strength of character and her vulnerability that she hides so well. He makes her feel emotions that go way beyond sexual attraction – although the passion is as sizzling as the fireworks that seem to feature throughout the book. Staying away from each other until Maise graduates doesn’t seem to be an option. However, secret make-out sessions and rendes-vous are on the verge of being discovered, and Maise’s and Evan’s burning bliss is about to be shattered. Will their romance have a “Casablanca” ending or will it be even more doomed?

 

I’m celebrating International Women’s Day this year by reviewing “Unteachable” – a novel with one of the most real, flawed and well-rounded heroines I’ve ever come across in New Adult novels. First things first – I’m drinking champagne right now and I should say that this book goes amazingly well with it – and it’s not just the sparks on this beautiful cover. Maise’s story (I am hesitant to call it Maise’s and Evan’s story for several reasons) is not your conventional student-teacher romance. She isn’t looking to be saved – initially, all she’s looking for is good sex, but later she can’t get enough of whatever is between her and Evan. She is a very self-aware character, having a pretty good idea that their romance is part forbidden and doomed, part addictive, part wonderful. She’s seen the effects of addiction first-hand growing up, and the last thing she wants is to be hooked on something, even if that something is amazing sex. I really appreciated the insight the author provided in Maise’s inner struggles with this and thoroughly enjoyed the vivid, imaginative writing throughout which this was conveyed.

In fact, the writing style was one of my favourite things about the book. True, it is riddled with f-bombs, but they fit strangely well within the overall intensely bright picture “Unteachable” presents to the reader. Colours, fireworks, lights, videoframes, and other devices of the kind were used in clever ways to further highlight Maise’s inner struggles and the intensity of her romance with Evan. I really loved how “Unteachable” is presented as a love story that has gone off-script – Maise references “Casablanca” (a classic I’ve yet to see, unfortunately) on several occasions, and wonders about the parallels in her story and Ingrid Bergman’s. Characters enjoy film art on many occasions throughout the novel, and the juxtaposition of movies against the ongoing storyline of Maise’s own life has worked really, really well.

The relationship is obviously the central point of the book, and it is a student-teacher relationship, which I normally have mixed feelings about – for example, I hated how it was handled in “Slammed”, and “Pretty Little Liars” has a myriad of issues attached to the relationship of the kind that occurs within the story. However, “Unteachable” approaches it bravely, unabashedly, and doesn’t shy away from the problematic aspects. Statutory rape isn’t an issue – Maise is 18 – but illegality and unequal positions of power are very much an issue. Evan’s past is an even bigger of an issue, and is the reason why I hated him by the end of the book and hoped for the “Casablanca” ending. However, the fact that the author didn’t just ignore the issues I mentioned, along with many others, but demonstrated the characters’ struggles with them, made this novel much more compelling than your average student-teacher romance. For that reason, my rating is 7.5/10.

 

Dreamcast

Maise O’Malley – Saiorse Ronan

Evan Wilke – Ian Harding (surprise surprise)

 

Recommendations

You might enjoy “Unteachable” if you liked:

“Slammed” by Colleen Hoover

“Last Will and Testament” by Dahlia Adler

“Easy” by Tammara Webber

“Pretty Little Liars”

Have you read “Unteachable”? What did you think? What are your favourite student-teacher romances? Let me know!

Book Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

isla

The wait is over, and the third installment of “Anna and the French Kiss” series is here!

Isla Martin (pronounced “Eye-la”, thanks for clarifying that, Steph!) is a tiny ginger dreamer who lives between USA and France and, as it often occurs with students who have perfect records, doesn’t know what she wants to do next. And she’s in love with Josh Wasserstein, a troubled artistic classmate of hers. They went to the same school in Paris for three years, but never really spoke, save for a few embarrassing Isla moments (oh Isla, I feel your pain!). Finally, they meet accidentally over the summer before their senior year in their hometown of New York. Ever since then, they can’t stop thinking about each other. Well, that’s not new for Isla, who’s been in love with him since freshman year. To paraphrase Darren Criss, you never tell a boy you like him, it makes you look like an idiot!

Poor Isla knows that all too well. However, nothing gets in the way of a petite smart redhead with a crush. She asks him out and the beautiful saga of Isla-and-Josh starts in the world’s most romantic city (well, that’s subjective because I personally prefer Vienna).

Ahh, young love. Unfortunately, love clouds judgments, especially if they’re both teenagers and one of them is passive-aggressively trying to get himself kicked out. Josh finally succeeds in doing so, and poor Isla is alone again. Distance sucks for new relationships and she starts questioning things. That’s not helped by Josh’s graphic novel which contains VERY explicit images of his gorgeous ex-girlfriend Rashmi. Will Isla be able to get past the jealousy and the insecurities or is the love between the rebellious artist and the dreamer doomed?

I think this book is my favourite out of all three, with “Anna” being a close second. I didn’t really connect with “Lola”, and I would probably have enjoyed it more if Calliope were the main character in it. “Isla” takes a slightly different approach to the previous two. While the setting and the aspects of characters’ lives, such as art and family lives, are still heavily romanticised like in “Anna” and “Lola”, “Isla” places a bigger emphasis on character development and, is, dare I say it, a lot sexier. The descriptions of certain moments were very steamy, which I loved. The fact that their first time was in Barcelona was awesome. I love that city to bits, not least because lots of first (but not that one!) took place there for me – my first vacation with friends, my first time in Europe (beside England), my first time experiencing the wonders of Sangria (wait till you’re 18, kids! or 21 if you’re in the States)… It was wonderful to read about the places I loved visiting. Sagrada Familia. Parc Guell. Las Ramblas. Reading about them is almost as good as experiencing them again. Almost.

Ah, I miss Spain.

It was also lovely to see Anna and Etienne again. And THAT MOMENT AT POINT ZERO. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting it but it was PERFECT. And it resonated perfectly with the first book – Paris was another character in “Anna” and it was making a return in a very unexpected but beautiful way. This book is, however, 90% about Isla-and-Josh. “Lola” was different from that, in a way that only 60-70% of it was about Lola and Cricket – the rest was occupied by Anna and Etienne. That’s not to say that “Isla’s” side characters didn’t play a big part in the book. Isla’s best friend, Kurt was great, and props to Stephanie for including an autistic character and giving him a real personality that wasn’t solely driven by his mental health issues. Isla’s sisters were also featured, although most of their interactions related to Josh in one way or another.

Overall, best of the three! However, as you are probably tired of hearing by now, my cynicism prevents me from truly enjoying romance novels. Therefore – 8/10 is my rating for “Isla and the Happily Ever After”.

 

Favourite character

I loved Isla, and Josh was pretty cool. But Etienne St Clair is my favourite character in the series. I realised that after he said a particular thing about a celebratory dessert and… the Point Zero thing (intrigued as to what it is yet?)

 

Most relatable character

Isla, Isla, and did I mention Isla? Reading her point of view was like looking into myself a few years ago.

Did I say a few years ago? Who am I kidding? At 22, I am still an avid reader with no clear direction in life and I spent the last year of my life doubting myself because of a failed relationship (one year too long if you ask me). Although in my case he WAS the problem, I understood what Isla was going through. While she got really lucky with Josh (who’s not my type but to each their own), it didn’t mean that a relationship with him was going to cure her of all insecurities at once. Isla felt real and relatable because of that to me. Moreover, I was also guilty of picking fights over nothing with my exes for the same reasons she did – insecurities and long-lasting crushes. Pretending like things were OK and that I wasn’t upset with them was a big problem in my last relationship, even if it wasn’t the main cause for its termination.

These days I feel like Isla – I am guarded and armed with blunt approaches towards people.

Unhealthy? Perhaps.

Mean? Quite likely.

But in Isla’s words, isn’t it better to be honest about these things before someone else can use them against you?

She’s right about that. And unfortunately, SPOILER happy endings END SPOILER with cute artistic guys don’t happen in real life too often.

Another thing I loved about her is that like me, she’s spent her life between two countries. I related quite a bit to her divided, for the lack of a better word, allegiances. Living between two states is not easy, even if you don’t have a boyfriend who is the son of an American Senator and whom you met at a Parisian school, and Stephanie Perkins portrays that really well. While romance is the main theme of the series, kudos to Mrs Perkins for fleshing out her characters. Admittedly, Anna and especially Lola weren’t as relatable and fleshed out as Isla, but the beautiful setting in “Anna” and colourful clothing descriptions in “Lola” made up for it.

Finally, Isla reads a lot, almost as much as I do. While I am not a big fan of graphic novels, I still consider reading materials, be it books or comics, to be a primary part of my comfort zone. Until I reached my late teens, I felt, like Isla, that reading was safer than going on a real adventure. I still love reading more than anything, but I’ve taken many risks since then and learnt that “the rest, the unknown… it’ll come. And that I’m looking forward to it”.

As you probably gathered, the last line was a quote from “Isla”. Perkins may have alluded it to the Isla/Josh relationship, but it can apply to the rest of the aspects of Isla’s life equally well.

 

Favourite quotes

“You read a lot. – Safer than going on a real adventure”

“Josh literally lost his virginity in front of a metaphor for sex”

“I’m beginning to think that maybe it’s okay to be a blank canvas. Maybe it’s okay that my future is unknown”

“The rest, the unknown… it’ll come. And I’m looking forward to it.”

 

Dreamcast 

I’ll do my dreamcast for all the characters of the series

Anna Oliphant – Ashley Clements

Etienne St Clair – Jeremy Kapone

Lola Nolan – Lindsay Shaw

Cricket Bell – Andrew Garfield

Isla Martin – Mary Kate Wiles

Josh Wasserstein – Ian Harding 

 

Recommendations

You would like “Isla and the Happily Ever Afrer” if you liked:

“Anna and the French Kiss” and “Lola and the Boy Next Door” by Stephanie Perkins – well, you probably read them before you read “Isla”

“Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell

“I am the Messenger” by Markus Zusak