Title – Unteachable
Author – Leah Raeder
Publication Date – March 24, 2014
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.
With the upcoming release of Unteachable in paperback format, I thought it would be a great time to pick up this book that I have heard so many people raving about. Leah Raeder’s book follows the story of Maise, a broken heroine going into her senior year of high school. She has practically raised herself due to her absent father and drug-addicted mother. Naturally, this creates some pretty bad tendencies, particularly the proclivity to desire sex with older men, and also to run when problems arise. She meets Evan at a carnival and from that moment of conquering one fear, she is left to question everything that she has known. What follows is a beautiful love story that is tragic and broken, but beautiful nonetheless.
“Who fixes broken people?”
Maise is a character that I could relate to in so many ways, yet felt so detached from in others. I so greatly admired the fact she was a strong, quite independent, female. Her determination to not become like her mother struck a pretty big chord with me. I understand how hard it is to try and break the cycle of what she had been through, so every time her mother was brought up, I completely sympathized with all the difficulties and emotions she experienced. With a father who abandoned me, I could also completely understand how she would have issues with men and trust. However, I felt such disconnect with how she carried out that mistrust. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that nobody in her life would notice that something was off, particularly Siobhan once she got close to the family. It was almost as if she approved of the behavior. While Maise was incredibly mature for her age given her life’s circumstances, I sometimes felt like her vocabulary just didn’t match her age. Some of the terminology used just didn’t seem like the language that a high school student would use.
“Is it only other broken people, ones who’ve already been ruined?”
As for Evan, I am left with mixed feelings about him. While reading Unteachable, I actually felt bad for his character. Maise was always running from him, and he did truly attempt to put Maise’s future before their own wants and desires. Because she was eighteen, I didn’t actually have a problem with them being together. It did slightly rub me weird that he was so much older, but it was something that I could see past. However, I started to feel really odd about him when he came clean with his secret. I wasn’t expecting it, but it sort of just changed the dynamic of his character.
“And do we need to be fixed?”
Even though he played more of a secondary role, I think that Wesley was my definite favorite. He embodied what a best friend should be, even if Maise didn’t want to admit that. She would get defensive, but he really was acting out of what he thought her best interest was. It was very interesting to see how he perceived things versus how she did when it came to her relationship. Her friendship with him seemed to provide a wonderful balance and sort of moral compass in this way.
“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 anymore, only recognize them in someone else.”
Overall, I did enjoy Unteachable, but I do wish that I had felt more throughout it. Also, the ending seemed more in the middle ground than giving me a wow impression. However, the writing was impeccable, and that is definitely not something to be missed. Leah Raeder effortlessly creates incredibly vivid pictures with her words and truly paints a flawless picture. She develops broken characters who are yearning for something more out of their lives. I know that some readers don’t like student-teacher relationships, but this is one of the better ones that I have come across!
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WHEN you’re eighteen, there’s fuck-all to do in a southern Illinois summer but eat fried pickles, drink PBR tallboys you stole from your mom, and ride the Tilt-a-Whirl till you hurl. Which is exactly what I was doing the night I met Him.
It was the kind of greenhouse August heat that feels positively Jurassic. Everything was melting a little: the liquid black sky, the silver-gel-penned stars, the neon lights bleeding color everywhere. All summer there’s a carnival a mile from my house, in a no-man’s-land rife with weeds and saw grass, a sea of flat earth. It felt like the edge of forever out there. I cracked a tallboy and it echoed like a rifle shot. I took a swig of that pissy weak stuff, savoring the coolness. I was sitting on a picnic bench, watching the roller coaster go up and down and up again, the joyous screams phasing in and out like a distant radio station. Roller coasters scare me, and it has everything to do with me losing my stuffed bunny George when I was five. George fell from a hundred feet in the sky when I threw my hands up in cruel, careless glee. Mom sewed new eyes on, but I cried and cried and said he was dead until she let me bury him in the backyard. We made a coffin out of a Froot Loops box. Mom, so drunk she was crying, too, gave the eulogy.
So maybe part of why I was out here tonight was because I was tired of being a kid, stuck with kid fears and kid memories. Senior year would start in two weeks. I wanted to go in already an adult.
I pounded the last of the beer and crushed the can on the bench.
My name’s Maise, by the way. Maise O’Malley. Yeah, I’m Irish as hell. But you probably knew that from the drinking, right?
I went into the carnival. Apparently, a breaking news bulletin had just gone out about my legs: three pairs of wolf eyes looked over instantly, then moved down, up, down, the old broken elevator gaze. It’s always the older guys, too. But I’m kind of screwed up from growing up without a father, and I like when they try to daddy me.
Try being the operative word, as Mr. Wilke says.
But we’ll get to him.
I smiled at no one, sauntering past stalls stuffed with popcorn and pretzels and corn dogs, snow cones and cotton candy. The air was drugged with sugar and salt. It made my head spin. A bell rang nearby and someone whooped triumphantly. I passed the rigged games—milk bottles, darts—where people stubbornly threw money at the carny, desperate to win some giant lice-ridden teddy fresh out of a Taiwanese sweatshop.
Mr. Wilke says I’m both cynical and worldly for my age. I choose to take them both as compliments.
I wasn’t ready to face the roller coaster yet, so I rode the merry-go-round for a while, going for the full Lolita effect as I lifted a leg high and slowly, slowly draped it over a painted horse, reveling in how uncomfortable I made all the parents. One man kept glancing in my direction until his kid pulled his sleeve and snapped, “Dad!” I raised an eyebrow coolly. Too bad I didn’t have any bubble gum.
Finally the beer had charged up my blood. I marched over to the YOU MUST BE THIS TALL sign. The line was short. It was getting late, for a weeknight.
Then I saw the name of the roller coaster.
I almost turned around right there. Stupid, yeah, but PTSADS doesn’t care how stupid a trigger is.
If you need me to spell that out, it’s Post-Traumatic Stuffed Animal Death Syndrome. I thought it was pretty funny. Mom and the psychologist did not. The psychologist said I had substituted George for Dad and I actually had post-dad syndrome. I told her George was a fucking bunny.
“You getting on?” the carny said. He had so much acne he looked like a halftone comic, like when you peer really close at a newspaper and everything that looked solid is just little dots.
I gave him my ticket.
The assholes on this ride had decided to take every single car except the front. Again, I almost turned around. I did turn, actually, and saw a guy behind me, so I turned back and got into the empty car because I was not going to chicken out in front of the entire universe. Best-case scenario: I close my eyes for four minutes and get a free blow-dry. Worst-case scenario: I fall from a hundred feet in the air, and there’s no sewing my eyes back on.
The door to my car opened.
It was the guy. He raised his eyebrows questioningly, and I shrugged. He got in.
At least I might die next to a hot guy.
Revised worst-case scenario: I throw up on him, we both die.
“You’re pretty brave,” he said, lowering the bar over us. “Must be a veteran, sitting up front.”
“It’s my first time,” I said. Well, first time on my own terms.
He smiled. It lit his face like a camera flash. “Mine too.”
Then Deathsnake lurched forward, toward doom.
It’s a trick, the way it starts. There’s a loud, creepy ratcheting, like some massive clockwork grinding beneath you, but the car just farts along inconspicuously. People behind us were talking about stupid shit. Some girl told someone to put away his phone and I prayed that he wouldn’t and that it was expensive. The guy next to me looked out over the fairgrounds as we ascended, and I peered past him, but my attention was split. Beyond him, a confetti of lights and fey music, all the ugly carny weirdness rendered magical thanks to distance. But my eyes kept catching on his face. From below it was traced with red neon, from above with metallic moonlight, sketching out a bold, almost sulky chin, lips that looked too soft and sensitive for a man. His eyelashes were a fringe of furry gold. I couldn’t see his eyes from this angle.
He looked over suddenly and I whipped my head away. “What a view,” he said.
“Tell me about it,” I mumbled.
I could feel him smiling.
“Oh, shit,” someone said behind us.
And we dropped.
Leah Raeder is a writer and unabashed nerd. Aside from reading her brains out, she enjoys graphic design, video games, fine whiskey, and the art of self-deprecation. She lives with her very own manic pixie dream boy in Chicago. Visit her at LeahRaeder.com.
“Lyrical, vivid, and poignant, Unteachable is one of the best forbidden romances I’ve ever read,”
— Lauren Blakely, New York Times bestselling author