Teach Me by R. A. Nelson
Publication date: 25 August 2005 by Razorbill
ISBN 10/13: 1595140840 | 9781595140845
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
Format: Paperback (also available in hadcover and eBook)
Keywords: Love, taboos, obsession
Uncomfortable topic? Yes. Well written? Yes. Carolina "Nine" begins a parent's nightmare of having an affair with her teacher, the complicated, tortured and sensitive Mr. Mann. As the romance intensifies, and then abruptly ends, Nine must deal with the consequences and face who they were to each other; great loves or Mr./Mrs. Right Now. As with most teenage breakups, this one is full of drama, loathing, conflicted feelings and anger. But unlike most, because of the taboo situation, it adds another layer of heartbreak.
Nelson does a fine job showing the relationship as Nine sees it--two lost souls who have finally found each other. Never mind the age difference. Never mind he's her teacher. Never mind she's 17 when they meet. It's first love. It's young love. Then why is it so wrong?
Granted, the novel brings up questions no one has the answer to. Is it wrong because of the age difference, because she's so young, or because of the teacher-student relationship? Perhaps all three. All of these questions are there as Nine begins her descent into chaotic madness. Her drastic actions cause a lot of pain. But she's hurting. Does he deserve it? Didn't he know it was wrong?
I can't say I was rooting for Nine and Mr. Mann. They're both selfish, self-absorbed creatures, so in that way they are perfect for each other. But I'm also sympathetic. I can say she's just a teenager, but really at 17 teenagers aren't quite so innocent as we may like to think. Her obsessive, sad, self destructive behavior I can relate to, as most people can. She goes a little crazy, and really who doesn't go a little crazy when love is gone.
Nelson's writing captures the despair of a teenage break up, the confusion and abandonment. And the ending, well, it does answer who they were to each other, or who they could have been: bittersweet. So in the end, I thought this book is one that should be read and digested slowly: every exciting second of falling in love with Mr. Mann, every uncomfortable moment of tearing out Nine's heart. And putting it all back together again.
Visit R. A. Nelson online at http://www.ranelsonbooks.com and follow @RANelsonYA on Twitter. Alethea also highly recommends Days of Little Texas and Throat.