A clear lesson to all the ladies and gents out there: when it comes to sex, don’t lie about your age. Just…don’t.
What’s it About?
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.
You guys, I had a lot of problems with this book. It all starts with the first introductions we have of our lead characters. Honestly, not the best. They meet at a summer carnival, which is just so Grease I can’t even help myself (not that that’s a bad thing). As the evening progresses, they both ask the other how old they are. Each has a coy response of “old enough…”. Mkay, here we go. Let’s start with Evan. I’m sorry but if you’re flirting it up with a girl who seems young enough where you find yourself questioning her age, and she comes back with that response?! You turn the other way and run as fast as you can.
For Maise, she knows that Evan is older than her, and that’s what draws her to him in the first place. She’s not interested in having casual sex with someone her own age who will be finished with the act in 24.3 seconds and lament over having to wear a condom. Damn, gives a pretty unfortunate generalization of teenage guys here. Not only does Maise lie about her age (says she’s 21, actually 18) and occupation (says she’s a stripper, actually a high school student), but Evan’s inability to admit what he actually does for a living (high school teacher!!!) could have avoided this whole mess from the start. It doesn’t paint them in a very good light for a first impression.
You guessed it! It all comes back to the father figure. Even Maise admits this is why she’s attracted to having casual sex with older men. Maise was abandoned by her father when she was little, and left to live with her drug addicted mother. When it comes to relationships, Maise leaves these older men by the time the night is over so they aren’t the ones to leave her. Phew, that’s a lot of family drama right there! I think this is presented as the primary reason we are supposed to sympathize with Maise’s character. My problem with this is that she has the tendency to treat everyone around her like utter crap, including her best friend. Maise seems desperate to convince herself and others that she’s an adult. She gives off this arrogant persona as though she’s better and smarter than everyone else around her, specifically when it comes to her classmates. However, in my humble opinion this attitude of hers, in addition to her actions with Evan, truly bring her immaturity to the forefront.
After having what she thought would be a one-night stand with Evan, she comes to discover that he is actually her high school film teacher. When they both realize this unfortunate coincidence it doesn’t prevent her from continuing to pursue him. If anything, it spurs her on. When Evan tries to explain that continuing anything with him wouldn’t be good for her, Maise states that he couldn’t possibly do any more damage to her than has already been done. Powerful words, yet nowhere in her speech does she acknowledge the damage this relationship could cause him. Maise believes that the worst case scenario with carrying on this relationship is that he gets fired and she gets kicked out of school. The best case scenario? She literally has no answer. She simply asks herself that question and moves on, even admitting, “This is all to high school for me.” Even when commenting that Evan could get fired was done with a seemingly “oh well!” attitude. It highlights that she’s just thinking of herself in this scenario.
That Being Said!
Now, don’t assume that I forgot about our boy Evan here. This is all a two-way street remember. You wanna talk immaturity, let’s look at Mr. High School Teacher having sex with his student. Come on man!! DANGER ZONE! Not only did you refuse to follow your gut when you thought this girl was too young for you, but then when you found out the truth you really didn’t put up much of a fight when she proceeded to seduce you. From the very start of this novel I kept thinking to myself, “If something happens and you two are discovered I really have no pity.” They even go to a motel together to have sex. God, could this be any more cliche?
There was one statement from Maise that I could actually appreciate, and that was when she questioned how screwed up this guy must be to get mixed up with an 18 year old. Exactly!! But then she goes and ruins it by insisting the two can be discreet about their relationship, and continue having sex. Not only do they go to a motel together in broad daylight, but they also make-out in his classroom during lunch, send each other naughty pics, and she even has him pick her up when she’s drunk at a party with a bunch of her classmates. Discreet? Looks like a vocab lesson might be necessary?
The Immaturity Continues
Maise admits very openly that she was initially drawn to Evan because of his age, then to the fact that he’s her teacher. She constantly refers to him as Mr. Wilke, both when having sex and when thinking of him if they’re apart. The sense of the forbidden was what solidified their relationship. You have to question if she even likes him as a person! After they are almost caught having sex in his classroom by another student, Maise delights at the idea of people knowing about their relationship, yet having no way of proving it. Umm, what?
Evan does make a sad attempt at one point to hold off on continuing their relationship until after she leaves for college, even suggesting she drop out of his class. This causes Maise to become off-the-rails offended. She’s adamant she must stay in his class if she’s going to get into film school, seeing as she needs to create a short film for her final project. Sorry to say this, but I kind of doubt just one film class your senior year is really going to make a difference. Also, if you were really serious about film school you’d probably already have some kind of portfolio built up, and you’d continue making this film even if you had to drop out of the class. As for Evan, have some self control to keep your hands off a student for the rest of the year!
How the hell are we supposed to view this relationship????? Are we supposed to root for them to have a happily ever after together? My main complaint wasn’t so much about the age difference. We get it, you’re 18, technically it’s legal. My issue was with the ethical dilemma. He’s her teacher; she’s his student. And yet she felt the rules didn’t apply to them, or her in particular. Maise saw herself as better than everyone else, more mature and hardened, so why shouldn’t she be able to pursue a relationship with her teacher? Ugggggghhhhhh! Maise never owns up to her actions. There are seemingly no consequences to having an affair with her teacher, not to mention some of the other stuff she does in this book. At one point, she is even seemingly rewarded for some of her questionable activities.
They also always seem to be putting on a role/facade when they’re with each other. Pretending to be other people, or acting out something like a scene from a movie. We’re supposed to think this relates to their shared interest in film, but I couldn’t help but question if it demonstrates their entire relationship is just an act. Are they really attracted to who the other person truly is? It seems that whenever they start to uncover something too “real” about the other person they quickly switch to their fake character personas. No joke you guys, the characters annoyed me so much I literally rolled my eyes every…single…time I listened to this audio book. I think I may have actually offended someone on the subway who thought my eye roll was intended for her.
Should you read it? Blarg. To give one positive point to this novel, I will say the author was quite poetic with the writing. However, while the sentences might be strung together eloquently, that wasn’t enough to save what are essentially unlikable characters with no moral compass. Not to mention a pretty boring plot line. I didn’t even get into Maise’s treatment of her best friend, or how we discover Evan has a past that makes my opinion of him even worse. Didn’t know that was possible. All in all, I just could not like either of the main characters, which made for an almost painful read. If anyone out there enjoyed this one, I’d really love to get a discussion going! What am I missing here?
Smut Level: I don’t really wanna go there.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Atria Books. 321 Pages.