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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 22 August 2013
Unteachable is a lyrical, intoxicating novel that creates an atmosphere of such feverish intensity you feel a little high, a little out of control, just by reading it. I fell into this story and got lost amongst the lights of the carnival, the smell of beer and sweat, and the MC's apprehension. I felt the pull of this story from the very beginning when Maise takes a ride on that fateful rollercoaster at the carnival and her life starts to change forever. Because this book is a romance and the romantic aspect is the foundation of the story, but it's also about something else. I suppose it is really a coming-of-age tale. Of being a young woman balanced between childhood and the scary world of adults. It asks what it means to grow up. And if any of us ever really do.

Maise O'Malley is the star of this show and I loved her instantly. I didn't expect her to be so funny. She's wickedly sarcastic, she's shamelessly rebellious, she's not afraid of being more than a little crude at times. But, of course, she's so much more than all of that too. She feels more real that any of the NA protagonists I've met with recently, there's something genuine about the way she boxes her troubles up and locks them away behind doors with sexy, devil-may-care smiles. I feel like there's something known about pain here. All these NA novels I've read about girls with issues, girls running from dark pasts, girls who were abused... and none of them seem to capture that darkness, that melancholy of being screwed up for a very long time. There's something sadder about the way Maise brushes it off with a shrug and a joke about Freud, it affected me more than the melodrama of other novels. I don't know the author's story, but she certainly writes with a convincing flair that suggests some level of firsthand experience with the thoughts and emotions swirling away behind Maise's closed doors. I love it when an author writes something, a thought or a feeling, that you never realised was exactly how you felt at a certain time or in a certain situation until it was laid out before you in a book. Inexplicable sensations are suddenly explained and it's hard not to smile or laugh or cry along with the characters.

Raeder's writing was, for me, perfect. Atmospheric, pretty without quite hitting the purple end of the scale, just beautiful. Like this:

"I biked up to the water tower on the hill overlooking the prairie. Climbed the rust-eaten struts up to a crow's nest some stoners had hammered together out of Mississippi driftwood. It wasn't as hot tonight, and a restless wind raked through the grass, smelling of loam and barley. From here the carnival lights looked like fireflies swirling madly in place, trapped under an invisible jar. Just like me."

I especially love the use of past tense in this book, the way Maise tells the story from a present the reader is far away from reaching. She keeps talking about how "I didn't know back then" and "I wonder what would have been different had I made another choice that day" and I actually loved it. The hindsight makes the whole thing seem somehow tragically inevitable. It works. You know certain things are coming and, rather than dampen the tension, it heightens it an incredible amount. I was sat there with a pounding heart, knowing what was coming, and sometimes wanting to hide behind my hands and not watch what I knew would happen. This, combined with the film metaphors woven throughout, made for a stunning, exciting novel.

And the sex scenes were really hot. Just sayin'.
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on 30 August 2014
I love forbidden romance stories, and this one didn't disappoint.

When Evan and Maise meet they're just two strangers at the carnival, and they're very much attracted to each other. They have hot and steamy sex in Evan's car and then Maise walks away, sure that she'll never see him again.

So when she walks into her film class at the start of school imagine her surprise when the E. Wilke on her class schedule turns out to be Evan. Cue panic and heart-pounding tension!

It was just one huge car-crash after that, one that you know won't end well, but you can't look away from it. I was sucked into the book, and even though what they were doing was morally wrong, it wasn't illegal, and I loved the effect the relationship had on Maise.

The story is narrated by Maise, and she describes an unpleasant childhood. She didn't have much of a childhood at all. Her mother is a drug addict, selling herself for money, leaving Maise to fend for herself. She learnt at a young age that men are only after one thing, so she decided to play the game and treat men indifferently, she used them and didn't get involved emotionally.

Evan was different though, from the moment she met him she felt something. When she discovered he was her teacher, the taboo nature spurred her on, the sneaking around made it more exciting. It was more than that though, and they do have a relationship that is more than just sex. He encourages her to aim high and follow her dreams and their relationship is her haven in her otherwise bleak life.

I couldn't put the book down, I was just waiting for the moment the proverbial would hit the fan, and when it does it is spectacular. I didn't see it coming at all.

The fall out was devastating for Maise, but she is resilient and resourceful, and revenge is sweet! I loved how things came together, and the end had me in tears
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on 1 August 2013
To give a book 5 stars means it has to do something to me. Something that is different from other books that I have read in this genre.

It began "When your eighteen there's Not much to do in a Southern Illinois summer but eat fried pickles, drink tallboys you stole from you Mom, and ride the tilt-a whirl till you hurl. Which is exactly what I was doing the night I met Him. You can call it love, or you can call it freefall. They're pretty much the same thing!.

So I was sold.

The plot has been done before - a story of a teacher/pupil forbidden relationship, but what has Leah Raeder written that is so different? The prose, it was simply beautiful. It stood out and each sentence was smooth and evocative.

Maise is the captain of her own fate. Her childhood was not normal and boys of her own age bored her. To Maise they were like over sensitive car alarms. Her experience with boys was limited, her first time she didn't know it had happened, second time lasted seconds. That was it - until she met Him.

They met at the carnival, he kissed her in the back of his car, and then they had sex, slow languorous sex. All inhibitions lost. That night Maise knew him as Evan.

Then she ran.

Her first day of school she saw Him first - Evan became Mr Wilke - her class teacher.

So what made me give this book 5 stars. Well for me it was refreshing to read a book that I felt was like real literature. This was not a pretentious lyrical young adult story. It was much more. The prose was hypnotic and there was nothing mundane or boring about Leah Raeder's writing style.

Neither was it just a story about a teacher and pupil who fall in love. The author makes the reader feel how good it is to be alive, to learn to be the person you are and don't look at the world through rose tinted glasses.

I loved her characters. Maise was confident, witty and intelligent and sometimes you had to kick back and realize she was eighteen.

Evan was 32 - 14 years older than Maise and I loved that. Both had childhood issues and both thrown into adulthood by their dysfunctional families.

In the movies they would have their happy ending - they lose, they learn ,they love and they move on. But this is their life and there is no script. So what happens in the end to Maise and Evan?

Read it and see where their script takes them. I cannot recommend it enough.

Note that I have had to alter the quote taken from the book as Amazon apparently did not like the use of the F word despite it being in the book that they are selling!
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on 3 August 2013
Fantastic story, so beautifully written. I was totally immersed in the story and the characters felt so real, you felt every high, every low right along with them.

I don't often leave a review, but Leah Raeder is a cut above the rest. I highly recommend this book - you won't be disappointed
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on 8 August 2013
I bought this book on holiday based on a friend's recommendation and was NOT disappointed. The descriptive language and metaphors used really build the most spectacular images in the mind of the places that the characters find themselves in. For example, I felt that I could close my eyes and be walking along the fun fair with Evan and Maise.

The relationships in the book, and I don't mean only those between the main protagonists, were very touching and there was such a lot of emotion and grit written into the back story for each character. I loved Maise and her strength. Such a vivid character she made me smile and laugh out loud in places.

I won't spoil the story by going into detail but all I will say is that I cried, I laughed and I felt like I was on the roller-coaster with the characters! I can recommend this book very highly indeed.
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on 3 August 2013
So, let me just warn you, I'm not much of a reviewer, but I had to big up this book. I read quite a few books, particularly indie ones. Some are great, some are terribly sappy. Unteachable was beautifully written; it was gritty, raw and poetic. I wasn't really interested in another student/teacher romance, but I'm so glad I took a chance on this story. I highly recommend this book- read the sample, then one-click it. You won't regret it!
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on 5 August 2013
Unteachable - Leah Raeder

5 beautiful, lyrical stars!!!

"I see the lights every night. 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.

Once again I have been totally and utterly blown away by a debut author this month, this is why I love reading, I love discovering new talent and boy does this lady have talent....I am still gobsmacked!!

The authors writing style totally captivates you from the first page...and this is how it all begins:-

"When you're eighteen, there's eff-all to do in a Southern Illinois summer but eat fried pickles, drink PBR tall boys 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."

Maise has had a difficult life and in fact still is. Her mum is an alcoholic and drug addict, she has brought herself up for as long as she can remember and she has severe daddy issues:-

"Thanks, Dad, for leaving a huge void in my life that Freud says has to be filled with dick."

This leaves Maise disconnected to boys her own age, she gravitates towards older men and has had far too much sexual experience with men for a girl of her years, but this is her medicine, her fix, she needs them, even if it is just to "feel" something for a while. She keeps herself to herself, she doesn't want to be noticed, feels like she doesn't fit in and just doesn't want to either. She never has a relationship just brief sexual encounters, she feels totally alone.

"..but I think even if I'd had a normal childhood, I'd have grown bored of boys my age. They're like over sensitive car alarms. A brisk breeze is enough to set them off. I should know, I lost my virginity to one in freshman year. I didn't even realise it when he came - I thought he was still trying to get it in."

She meets Him at the carnival, they instantly connect, he is older, they ride some rides, play some games and then ride each other...in the car! But this is no quickie or so He thinks:-

"I want you," he whispered into my hair, and a million filaments of electricity raced across my scalp. "But I want to know you. I don't just want a hook up."

Maise realises she is done for..this is no casual hook-up she feels things she shouldn't and this scares her. He even manages to get her to reveal her name and Him becomes Evan.

"The funny thing was that his kiss had felt like effing me, and his effing me felt like being kissed, everywhere, every bit of my body unbearably warm and buzzing."

So Maise does, what Maise does best and runs.

The next time she sees Him, she freaks, her Film Studies teacher is Mr Wilke, Mr Wilke is Evan and Evan is Him, she is royally screwed.

Yes, we have read student/teacher stories before and the topic has been done numerous times but this book stands out from the crowd. It was the way it was written, a beautiful story written absolutely beautifully (yes I know that I am using beautiful a lot). The prose is captivating, beguiling, enchanting, you cannot help but be pulled into this story, and once it gets its claws into you, you cannot help but read on, you cannot put it down, you don't want to put it down. Maisie and Evan's story is hypnotic, you will be under Leah Raeder's spell and once that is cast, you are done for.

"What are you doing to me?" he said, his voice far away. "This is all I think about. I'm obsessed."

I know the feeling Evan, I was obsessed with this book!

Evan is 14 years older than Maise, but he is a young 32, he has his own issues and problems, they are like two broken souls who are pulled to each other, each needing to be healed, but will they be each others "band aid" or will it all go to pot and the inevitable pain ensues when that "band aid" is ripped off.

Their story was never going to be hearts and flowers, this is Maise and Evan we are talking about. Although you have to love a man that openly admits to crying at the film "Casablanca".

"Maise," he said, "I love you." The shiver came, and everything in me turned to the same sparkling whiteness that fell outside and drifted, weightless, evanescent, catching the light for a heartbeat and melting the instant it landed. I couldn't speak. My head was full of snow and static. He touched my face and I touched his and we didn't kiss, just looked at each other. I love you, I thought. If I was the only person truly alive that night, it was because of you. You made the world come alive for me and I love you. I love you, I love you. But it was so hard to get the air out of my lungs, and then he kissed me, and I stopped trying.

This is not just a story about forbidden romance, it is about standing up for yourself, finding yourself, learning to like and love yourself. Maise has to go through a lot to get there, but with the love and support of friends and Evan she does eventually get there.

I must mention Wesley and his mum, Wesley is Maise's best friend, he, like her is a bit of loner and they stumble across each other and do become firm friends. His mum takes Maise under her wing and is a fountain of advice for Maise. Yes they do have their problems especially being that friendship is new to both of them, but they find out, together.

Where do Maise and Evan end up?? Well that you will have to read for yourself, just remember to buckle up and enjoy the ride, because this is some rollercoaster, but it is truly enchanting, poetic and lyrical and is a total must read. It has to be read to be believed and no amount of superlatives can do this book justice...just go forth and 1click!!

"You should love something while you have it, love it fully and without reservation, even if you know you will lose it someday. We lose everything. If you're trying to avoid loss, there's no point in taking another breath, or letting your heart beat one more time. It all ends." His fingers curled around mine. "That's all life is. Breathing in, breathing out. The space between two breaths."

[...]
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on 16 August 2015
"I see the lights every night. It seems like the whole world has figured out how to be happy, but no one's letting me in on the secret."

Okay.

Wow.

Guys.

This was really hard for me to rate because it was actually, like, a brilliant book. Just - really well written and engrossing and engaging and the overall quality of it should get it five stars alone.

But!

But but but.

I just couldn't connect with the characters *sad face*.

I know this is an it's-me-not-you thing because obviously no one else had any problems connecting with Maise and Evan. But, the fact that I couldn't connect meant that their love scenes? Didn't do it for me. Their situation? I wasn't bothered. Their angst? Sorta annoyed me. And it is so frustrating for me to sit here and realise that this book is sort of incredible and I can't fully appreciate it because I couldn't drum up an affinity for the characters.

So.

I'm going to try and be objective about this.

Unteachable deserves all the hype that it has received. Like, hella.

Firstly. The writing? Woah.

"The thought of how much happiness lay scattered across the universe, unrealized, in fragments, waiting for the right twist of fate to bring it together."

I believe Leah Raeder once described her own writing as "pretentiously lyrical" and that is a completely accurate description but it actually really works. There's only a certain type of fiction that can make pretentiously lyrical work; this is also true of certain types of writers. Maggie Stiefvater is one of these writers. Her books, the Raven Cycle, is an example of this certain type of fiction. Leah Raeder and Unteachable are another example. Even though the two sets of writing are pretentiously lyrical in completely different ways.

But yeah. What I'm trying to say is that Leah Raeder does with her writing what people like Tahereh Mafi epically fail at. So, the writing is incredible.

The plot is simple yet effective: Girl meets boy. Girl sleeps with boy. Girl leaves boy. Girl pines for boy. Boy turns out to be her teacher. They get it on. Repeatedly. Things start to go to s**t. Formulaic and simple. Also, very effective. I think the fact that the story is so realistic helps us engage with it.

How many of us, at eighteen, had a thing for one of our teachers? How many of us, at eighteen were sexually aware enough that given half the chance we probably would have gone along with it. I remember "that" teacher for me: He was the P.E teacher. He was young, he was beautiful, he was funny and he gave a s**t about us and given half the chance I would have jumped his bones.

This is something that is happening all over the world. But instead of making this about the teacher abusing his position of authority, Raeder makes this a story about two genuinely messed up people trying desperately to pull some happiness into their lives; trying to claw out a hand-hold for themselves in the world. I never once felt like the relationship between Maise and Evan was unequal because they were both equally infatuated with each other.

In fact, Raeder gives us quite a few gritty topics in this book and then gives us a completely different way of looking at all of them: Maise's drug ruined home. Wesley's single parent home. Hiyam's privileged life. Nothing about this book is "typical."

This book deserves five stars. Because I'm emotionally stunted, I wanted to give it three. I settled on giving it four.
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on 5 August 2013
5 rollercoasting stars..

Unteachable has got to be the most captivating book I have read in a long time.

Maise O'Malley visits a funfair one night, and makes a decision to enter the Deathsnake rollercoaster's front car. She is jolted out of her petrified stupor by someone else entering the car...a guy..a hot guy!

"You're pretty brave. Must be a veteran, sitting up front." he said.
"It's my first time" I replied.
"Mine too" he smiled

Maise felt something she had never felt before, a connection. Their flirtations continued as they worked their way around the fair. This guy was different, but at the end of the night she left him..before he left her. Evan Wilke.

"Thanks for the abandonment issues, Dad. F*** you very much"

Maise struggles to enrol for a Film studies class that she desperately wants to attend. After great persistence, she enters the class to find her teacher is known to her. Evan Wilke.

This isn't you usual teacher/student tale. It is just so much more, justified purely by the beautiful writing of the author. The story pulled me into every situation, every emotion, every effing page.

Maise was strong, unloved, a natural, raw beauty, who's thoughts and functions belied her 18 years. Probably due to the train wreck of her existence. But what a fantastic character, and Irish too!

I absorbed this book internally, highlighting like a maniac, re reading pages just to enjoy how the prose organically flowed..beautiful!

I will be recommending this book with gusto...thank you Leah for a most excellent escape!
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on 11 September 2013
This book is a great read. Almost as good as "A Different Blue". If you like this you should definitely give that book a try. The main characters in this book are very likeable. I kept hoping for a happy ending for all of them. I really enjoyed this.
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