Review and Giveaway: Unteachable by Leah Raeder

Title: Unteachable
Author: Leah Raeder

Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Publisher: Atria Books (Reprint)

Pub Date: March 2014 (Reprint)
Rating: 5 Stars

Our thoughts...

It takes a great writer to create something beautiful, meaningful, and captivating in a genre that is frequently diluted with clichés and artificial angst. The young adult (YA) genre has a tendency to fall flat for me. Sure, there have been the few exceptions that the chunk of the world has fallen in love with (Hunger Games, anyone?) but aside from those rare gems, the genre tends to exhaust me.
Call me old, call me a curmudgeon, I’m okay with that. This book, this author, however…I have been enraptured. Leah Raeder and Unteachable have been game-changers for me. Don’t call me a convert just yet, but I am more optimistic for a genre that has been lacking real life and emotions for far too long.

It is the summer before Maise starts her senior year in high school (here’s where I almost turned away from this story, but trust me, it gets better). She just turned eighteen but had to grow up fast. She truly is an old soul but not in a cheesy, forced way that I tend to see represented in YA books. Maise still manages to act her age despite her perceived maturity level. She isn’t convinced she’s an adult; she accepts the realities of being eighteen.

“I’m not going to do the whole rollercoaster/falling in love metaphor. I didn’t fall in love with him up there. Maybe I fell in love with the idea of love, but I’m a teenage girl. This morning I fell in love with raspberry jam and a puppy in a tiny raincoat. I’m not exactly Earth’s top authority on the subject.”

Maise and Evan meet on a serendipitous rollercoaster ride one lonely summer night at a carnival, both looking to conquer fears and finding each other in the process. They experience a timid and wary insta-lust, both tip-toeing around the inevitable with extreme caution and trepidation. When all is said and done, Maise bails on Evan without exchanging names and with no intentions to ever see him again.

Summer soon comes to an end and senior year starts. Maise is excited to start her film studies class until she realizes that her summer mystery man, who has never been far from her thoughts, is in fact her teacher. Hairy situations ensue. Can Maise and Evan develop the real relationship they both crave? Can they be together without being caught? (Can I sound any more like the announcer at the end of an old episode of Batman?) Feelings intensify, secrets come to the surface, and rumors start to spread.

“You can call it love, or you can call it freefall. They’re pretty much the same thing.”
Relationships are never uncomplicated, especially when they happen in high school surrounded by curious observers. What I like about Maise is how she struggles to love and be loved but still maintains her youth. She doesn’t come across as being an adult which helps add authenticity to her character. She is simultaneously strong and vulnerable which allows the reader to care about her. Her independence and clear head are admirable as is her journey towards discovering what love truly can be. She’s also witty and full of moxie, which I found quite endearing.

My only real qualm about this story is how quickly things end. It doesn’t bother me so much because I fell in love with this story, allowing me to put up blinders. I can see how it may irk some people a little bit but it really isn’t substantial. I would love to say more but I fear I’ll give too much away. Overall, I don’t see it as a problem or mood-breaker, just something that some people may wish was further developed. 

I can’t write a review about Unteachable without mentioning the writing. Leah Raeder writes in such a beautiful and melodic fashion. Her descriptions are poetic and her phrasing often lyrical. I say this in the best way. Some authors shoot for poetic and sound forced. Raeder somehow manages to write this way seemingly effortlessly. The styling feels natural and so, so right. This fluidity is further accentuated in the audio recording. The narrator, Grace Grant (Ugly Love and Beautiful Bastard), captures not only the attitude and personality of Maise, but brings the melodious nature of the story and writing to life. 

This book really surprised me and won me over. Leah Raeder is not afraid to write about taboo topics and does so with beauty and flare. Her characters are strong yet vulnerable and easy to care about. Unteachable is more than just a student/teacher romance. It’s more than one damaged person finding another damaged person and falling in love. Unteachable has depth and the characters feel very real. The story is well-planned and well-written and I can’t wait to read more from Leah Raeder. 


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  1. Also, I like the pin with the quote "Souls that resemble attract inevitably."

  2. Favorite pin: The rollar coaster with the sunset behind it. "And I felt something I've never felt before..."

  3. Black iris (OMG SO EXCITED) and Camgirl