This is not a topic I naturally gravitate to, but I still end up reading a lot of books about, shall we say, inappropriate teacher/student relationships. Generally, I find them problematic for all the usual reasons, but also because the points-of-view never seem to be as complex as I’d like them to be. It’s either LOOK HOW WRONG or OMG SO HOT with very little in between, at least in the ones I’ve read.
Tampa by Alissa Nutting
Look. How. Wrong. For real, just the wrong-est sort of wrong. Fascinating because the teacher is a woman who is sexually attracted to young boys (and if there’s ever a movie version of this that doesn’t star Jennifer Lawrence as Celeste, well, I don’t even know anymore.) Cringe-inducing because the details are so explicit. To use blurb-speak, it’s unflinching. At points, I thought, “Well, maybe she could’ve flinched a little bit.” Ultimately, I’m glad she didn’t because all kinds of women need to be represented in fiction, even the sociopaths, and we need to talk about female perpetrators and male victims very differently than we do. Includes classroom encounters.
Verdict: Borrow if you’re not sure you can stomach it. Buy, especially for that cover, if you can.
Unteachable by Leah Raeder
This one is (or tries to be) from the OMG SO HOT side of the issue, but it doesn’t quite convince me. I mean, yeah, there’s lots of sex. Lots of it. Maise is a senior, and may even actually be eighteen (I think she is?), so it has less of an inherent grossness than Tampa. Also, she meets the guy over the summer, before she knows he’s going to be her teacher, which creates the conflict, I guess: how will they continue seeing each other naked now that they know? Still, there’s never really any question about how it’s all going to turn out, even with some Obvious Obstacles thrown in to make you wonder. (You don’t really wonder.) Includes classroom encounters.
Verdict: Borrow, unless what I just told you made you want to Bypass.
The Wood of Suicides by Laura Elizabeth Woollett
The narrative here is deeply rooted in the protag’s daddy issues. Laurel’s father was a professor. When she goes away to a new school, her middle-aged English teacher (so often it’s the English teacher, with those poetic souls and brooding eyes or whatever) reminds her of her dead dad, so she falls in insta-love with him. This story is a little more complex because we see how troubled she is and we witness her knowing pursuit: this is wrong, but I want it anyway, and I will have it. And she does, and it gets weird and gross and hard to read (their classroom encounters, the loving way she describes his body hair, the fact that he’s My Current Age older than she is). The only reason I kept reading this book is because it reminded me so much of The Moth Diaries. I’m not even sure why, exactly; something in its quiet disturbing-ness and overall mood, I guess.
Side note: If I ever write one of these books, I vow here and now that there will be no classroom encounters because they are cliché and grody.
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