The night I met you was like someone handed me a winning lottery ticket and said, “You can only have it if you don’t tell.”
What a book!! Beautiful. Forbidden. Captivating.
Forbidden love is so alluring. I think all of us are drawn to it one way or another. The thrill, the fear, the heightened sense of awareness… everything about it is dangerous and yet totally irresistible.
Now, this book is a student/teacher romance so yes, the taboo is there. Loud and clear. But, for those of you who are unsure based on that, it might help to know that the heroine is 18 so the issue here is purely moral, not legal.
Before I even speak about the story though, I need to take a moment to gush about the writing. Unteachable is a beautifully written book. I am in awe of Leah Raeder’s writing talent. Her unique style is lyrical, poetic and vivid. The story grabbed my attention from the very first line and, by mid-way through the first chapter, I had goosebumps and spent the rest of my read desperately overusing the highlight function on my Kindle.
I’m going to do something I very rarely do in reviews… I’m going to share the book’s official blurb instead of describing it myself because, in all honesty, reading this blurb was what sold me on the book – especially that last line. Here, see for yourself:
Holy wow! Right?
Well, the whole book is written like that! So if you liked that blurb, you definitely want to read this one! It’s the kind of story that has just enough reality in it to keep you grounded but just enough fairytale to sweep you away.
My first love from this book goes to the heroine, Maise. I wanted to be her best friend. She had that kind of quiet inner strength, raw cynical outlook, pure honesty and quick-witted sass that made her a refreshingly real character. She was the kind of girl who wasn’t going to make any apologies for who she was and yet wasn’t going to blame anyone else for her problems. She owned them and she owned herself despite the fact that she was still figuring herself out and finding her place in the world. She was both vulnerable and yet tough as nails; sharp, smart and perceptive beyond her years and yet still naive in other ways and still learning the ways of the world.
Evan was an interesting character. For the record, he was 32 years old. He wan’t super rich, or super kinky, or really super anything. He was just a sweet, gorgeous, flawed guy who fell for a girl he shouldn’t have.
“He listened to us earnestly, his face filled with curiosity, amusement, respect. He was smarter than us but not smug. He shared intelligence like a secret, making us conspirators in it. I could feel the whole class falling in love with him. And every time his eyes touched me, the air jolted.”
I kept wavering back and forth with my feelings for him. Yes, a part of me fell for him but the questions kept running through my mind… Granted, he didn’t know she was a student when they met but after wards, was I able to consider him a hero? Was I okay with what he was doing? Should I judge him? Should I accept him? What about his actions – were they right, wrong, acceptable? How much did age really matter when the heart knew what it wanted? I felt very conflicted. My heart and mind battled over it. I was uncomfortable with his actions to be sure but at the same time, he really was an okay guy and so that zone between right and wrong was getting fuzzier and fuzzier.
“Was he my boyfriend? Secret lover? Person abusing his position of authority and trust?”
I mean, what if your happily-ever-after person didn’t come neatly packaged up in the body of a person society thinks you should be with? Would that make being with them ok? Or are there just some relationships that are just not meant to be? If the heart says yes, shouldn’t that be enough? I struggled at times but I loved the questions the story raised. And I didn’t see all the twists coming because there were elements in the story I won’t reference directly that made me consider him differently in the end than I did in the beginning. But despite all my questions, I couldn’t help but feel right about them. Wrong, but right. I loved them together and truthfully, if you looked at them just as two separate people devoid of titles or age gaps, they were perfect for each other.
“It seems like the whole world has figured out how to be happy, but no one’s letting me in on the secret.”
There are moments, when you’re getting to know someone, when you realize something deep and buried in you is deep and buried in them too. It feels like meeting a stranger you’ve known your whole life.
They struggled with their relationship too – each in their own way. But there was no doubt that what they both wanted most was each other.
“This feels wrong, Maise. I’m your teacher. It’s not just about getting caught. It’s how our lives will get screwed up even if no one finds out. Sneaking around, secrecy, paranoia – ““You’re seriously underestimating how much I like espionage. And it’s just until school ends.”“Is that how you want to spend your senior year?”“I don’t want to spend it wondering what could have been… Do you really want to stop?”“No,” he said softly.
Yes, it’s true that technically maybe they should have stopped it but… sometimes, if you play by the rules, you miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime life-changing experience and I can totally understand why they both took a chance on it.
We’re told the story from Maise’s POV but she was telling it after having lived it so she was looking back on the story almost as though she was remembering what happened and giving little warnings and hints of things to come and what to watch out for. It made the whole story even more thrilling and exciting because the anticipation and tension kept building.
Maise went through a journey of self discovery in this book. There were constant shifts in language – referring to Evan sometimes by name and at other times as ‘my teacher’, and referring to herself as both an adult and a girl. She was figuring herself out and these subtleties depicted the conflict going on in her mind.
“Human brains don’t fully develop until age twenty-five. Seven more years until I was a full person. Who the hell am I? I thought. Too old to be a real teenage, 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… I thought about the man I was waiting for, the way my eyes had been gradually opening, sincerity replacing sarcasm, the way I felt I was constantly waking up and yet slipping deeper into a beautiful dream.”
The story pulled me back and forth. I’d be lulled into the beauty of them falling in love and then jerked back to the reality of what they were actually doing and then pulled into the forbidden thrill.
“I kissed my teacher in the shadow of the water tower, beneath the stars.”
I loved Maise’s raw honesty and Evan’s open understanding. I loved the simplicity of having characters make mistakes, and simply tell the other person and then be forgiven. Nothing that happened in this book made me roll my eyes. The way they handled their relationship and situation was refreshing. I loved that when things got tough, their answer was first to try to work together at finding a solution rather than throwing their hands up in the air and walking away.
I have quotes highlighted on nearly every single page. There’d be points where I’d just stop and just seriously take a minute to just stop and reread a section because they were so well written.
The book is told in such a way that within each chapter was several sections and each of those sections told it’s own little story. At the end of almost each one, I’d just sit back and go ‘woah’.
This book doesn’t try to convince you of anything. You’re not ‘made’ to be okay with the relationship in it. Rather, the author presents you with the story in a beautiful, lyrical way and regardless of what my brain was telling me, my romantic heart believed in Maise and Evan.
“Who fixes broken people? Is it only other broken people, ones who’ve already been ruined? And do we need to be fixed? It was the messiness and hurt in our pasts that drove us, and that same hurt connected us at a subdermal level, the kind of scars written so deeply in your cells that you can’t even see them any more, only recognize them in someone else.”
The first three quarters of the book is a slow burn – captivating and yet not intense. But then, around the 75% mark, there was a big switch and things really became to speed up, come together, and sometimes fall apart. I appreciated the change of pace and I didn’t see the twist coming. Not. at. all.
I’ve heard some readers say that it needed an epilogue and I have to say that I actually agree to a certain extent. It both does and doesn’t need one.
First – yes, it’s a happy ending. No worries there. But I did want more. I mean, in some ways, the ending was absolutely perfect. It tied it back the the very beginning of the story beautifully and left you absolutely hopeful for the future in a way that was full of potential. But, the romance reader in me wants more. I guess, I always want more… 😉
I give the writing 5 stars and the story 4 stars.
Unteachable was a beautifully written book that wrapped me up in the thrill of forbidden romance. I can’t believe this was a debut novel. What an entrance into the writing world! I can’t wait for more from Leah Raeder!
“You can call it love, or you can call it freefall. They’re pretty much the same thing.”
Old artwork based on the original indie version below:
❤ SIGNED GIVEAWAY ❤
Open to anyone with a US or Canadian address to ship to. So, if you’re international, but have a friend or family member you can send it to, then you can still enter. Void where prohibited by law. Must be over 18 to enter. 2 winners will signed copies of Unteachable. NOW OVER!