Thursday, 5 November 2009

Review - Teach Me / R.A. Nelson

Summary - Teach Me invites readers inside an experience that fascinates everyone—an affair between a teacher and student—and gives an up-close-and-personal answer to the question: How does this happen?

Review - There is no doubt that this is a superbly written novel. Exploring the inappropriate relationship that burgeons between a nerdy, teenage science freak and a self-aggrandising English teacher, Teach Me deals with tricky subject matter in a way that gets to the heart of the matter...the abuse of trust. It's such a tricky subject that I found myself hating the teacher from the first moment, not surprising considering I share his profession.

My bias made it impossible for me to emphasise with Richard. He’s loathsome. He’s everything I would have loved as a teen with his pretentious ramblings, soul searching eyes and narcissistic tendencies. But as a teacher, I definitely know better. It’s clearly predatory behaviour and at no point did I buy into his professions of genuine feelings. Richard knew it was wrong before he could have contemplated having feelings for Nine.

Nine’s situation is understandable but I didn’t particularly like the girl. It is curious that a girl who holds so many people at a distance gets sucked into a torrid affair. But ultimately it is not the affair that is interesting but the emotional fallout that is fascinating. Nelson writes Nine in a beautifully realised, frank style that is unlike anything I have read before. Peppered with poetry and science facts (that hurriedly flew over my head) you immediately absorb how intelligent this girl is and how cluelessly naive she is in a social context.

Nine is curious. She’s sarcastic and blunt but she still blindly finds herself in love with Richard. Understandably she finds this is a thrilling but safe endeavour as a teacher could never (and should never) return those feelings. While I physically baulked every time a line was crossed, Nine was becoming thoroughly intoxicated with her elder lover. Yet it’s the crumbling of this relationship and Nine’s mental break from rational behaviour that propels this tale from one of a play of emotions to one of betrayal and blackmail. It’s fantastically wicked, topical and a fun toe dip into the crazy-jilted pool of teenager love/obsession.

Published: 2007
Format: Paperback, 272 pages
Publisher: Razorbill
Source of Review Copy: purchased
Origin: USA
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Rhiannon Hart said...

I absolutely adored this book, but I can totally see why you'd be uncomfortable with it being a teacher and all. I was dubious when I first picked it up at the library (is the author just playing out his own fantasies?) but there were all these librarians quoted on the back saying how good it is, which intrigued me. This is one of my favourite reads of this year, and one of the very few pieces of realistic fiction I've picked up.

Thao said...

I love love love this book.

The Book Owl said...

This sounds really good! I'll definitely have to pick this up. Nice review.

Melanie said...

I just recently finished Days of Little Texas by R.A. Nelson, and I thought it was really good. So, I've been looking for more of his writing. This book sounds really complex! Out of curiosity, is Richard a middle-aged or younger man?