An edgy, sexy USA TODAY bestseller about falling for the one person you can’t have.
Maise O’Malley just turned eighteen, but she’s felt like a grown-up her entire life. The summer before senior year, she has plans: get into a great film school, convince her mom to go into rehab, and absolutely do not, under any circumstances, screw up her own future.
But life has a way of throwing her plans into free-fall.
When Maise meets Evan at a carnival one night, their chemistry is immediate, intense, and short-lived. Which is exactly how she likes it: no strings. But afterward, she can’t get Evan out of her head. He’s taught her that a hookup can be something more. It can be an unexpected connection with someone who truly understands her. Someone who sees beyond her bravado to the scared but strong girl inside.
That someone turns out to be her new film class teacher, Mr. Evan Wilke.
Maise and Evan resolve to keep their hands off each other, but the attraction is too much to bear. Together, they’re real and genuine; apart, they’re just actors playing their parts for everyone else. And their masks are slipping. People start to notice. Rumors fly. When the truth comes to light in a shocking way, they may learn they were just playing parts for each other, too.
Smart, sexy, and provocative, Unteachable is about what happens when a love story goes off-script.
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AudioBook Review: Stars: Overall: 4 Narration: 4 Story: 4
Stars: Overall: 4 Narration: 4 Story: 4
I knew going in that this book, Unteachable, had great buzz. Raves for Leah Raeder’s writing and her ability to hold on to the honest portrayals of situations that are controversial and more often found in headlines with the appropriate amount of censure and judgment. And yes, the relationship at the center of this story is uncomfortable, but uniquely honest and developed with emotion and the insight of remove, even as you can’t help but empathize with the protagonist.
Maise has had an interesting life: her mother is desperately in need of rehab and Maise has been more parent than child for most of her eighteen years. With the attitude born from her ability to fend for herself, yet not quite adult enough to make the best decisions, her life is ready to take a turn for the different. Now out of high school and preparing to enter film school in the fall, she is just biding her time until she heads off to pursue her own dreams.
A quick encounter at the fair results in a hot hook-up, and leaves Maise conflicted about her own no-strings, no attachments policy. There was a connection with Evan that she can’t seem to forget, opening the door that contains her “what if things were different” thoughts in a safe place. Like Pandora’s Box, the questions are released and grab her at the most inconvenient times.
When she finally starts on her own journey and follows her dreams, who should be teaching her film class but Evan: the one night man from the fair.
Here the two explore the connection despite the forbidden (or frowned upon) nature of the relationship. Students should not date teachers, nor vice versa. Neither is an actor, and their connection and inability to mask the attraction between them draws attention and rumors, and oh what a roller coaster ride the story becomes. The issues of power and lack thereof, the discrepancy in their ages and maturity levels, and the questions of honesty between them, even as they are dishonest with everyone else in their lives becomes paramount.
Unmasking the lies that we tell ourselves, let alone others, about our relationships, and how people will often fill the needs of others, in real or imagined ways. The excitement added from something being forbidden, and what happens when that label is removed, can the relationship stand as solidly in the light of day. Series of questions and conundrums that are present but unasked for the most part, as we travel with Maise navigating her new life.
Secondary characters are well developed, Wesley is the first real friend in Maise’s life and his input and interactions with her are wonderful and insightful. The unveiling of the relationship, replete with blackmail, drugs and lies are devastating to Maise, her worries about the relationship’s staying power is in question. Wesley is the one person who sees both the emotional and psychological toll the relationship has taken on her, and his steadfast support is set up to be longer lasting than any kerfuffle or upheaval.
Narration in this story is provided by Grace Grant, and she has a knack of portraying the ‘slightly broken and lost’ characters to perfection. There is a curious mix of steely determination and tentative youth that surround Maise, and the portrayal enhances that feeling as Grant pulls out the emotional subtext that is up to the reader to discover as they read without overplaying or dancing into melodrama. This is a young girl, despite her experience, and she thinks and dreams as all young girls do, learning her way into adulthood with mistakes and missteps. Grant places the adult one moment, scared child the next elements into her performance, never missing a step, while telling the story as written. Other characters are added with nuanced variations in pitch and delivery, and the story is one to sit back and enjoy, allowing the words to capture your emotions and heart.
A story that attacks a difficult subject with grace and talent, Leah Raeder has not removed the shocking moments, but presented them in ways that helps the reader to understand why Maise is in the situation, and what sort of toll it will take on her life going forward.
I received an AudioBook copy of the title from Simon and Schuster Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Beautifully written. Held me captive from the very beginning. Author's writing style is so unique; one of the best NA books I've ever read. Maise and Evan are simply ELECTRIFYING. 👏🏼
Problematic plot, prose overpowered the story
Review originally posted on Reading Books Like a Boss
The beautiful imagery combined with Leah Raeder's striking prose in Unteachable was so alluring to me. However, for me the writing was not enough to hold the story together. I felt like the story lacked a strong plot and relied heavily on sexual attraction.
Maisie is an eighteen-year old high school student looking for love in all the wrong places. Her mother is a drug dealer and prostitutes herself in order to pay for her own drug addiction and her dad is out of the picture. Maisie only has one person on whom she can depend—herself. Her emotional fragility was so clear and well-developed. She makes no apologies about her sexual escapades and prides herself on her freedom to choose her sexual partners. Many of those she chooses to sleep with are much older than her. It seems to me that she yearns for the love she doesn't get at home. And that fact made me so sad for her.
Early on in the story Masie meets Evan, a thirty-two year old man, at a local carnival and they spend a passionate night with each other. Their attraction and chemistry is instant and are immediately drawn to one another. Both are shocked when Maisie walks into her theater class to find that Evan is her teacher. Unable to stay away from each other, both begin a heated affair that Maisie must keep secret from everyone, including her friend, who begins to suspect something is going on.
I had a few issues with this book. Evan and Maisie have sex a lot. I didn't really understand their attraction to one another (outside of the obvious physical attraction) because their relationship so sexually based. I needed more there. I am not a prude and don't mind sex in my books, but I wanted there to be more of a focus on their relationship. It felt too insta-lusty and I never really fell for them like I was supposed to. The relationship that I was rooting for was between Maise and her friend. I loved how his mother took Maise under wing, knowing what Maise was going through.
At one point Evan admits that Maise is age is what drew him to her at first. To be honest, that creeped me out a little bit. I've read books where the characters have a huge age difference, but the author makes it work in some way. The fact that Evan liked her because she was young was a little weird and vice versa (Maisie liking Evan because he is older).
Raeder can write, there's no question, but her writing often overpowered the story for me. The flowery prose, though beautiful, was almost too much.
* I received this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.