Nelson, R. A. Teach Me. Rasorbill, 2005. 264 pages. ISBN 978-1-42872-114-2
Carolina, aka Nine, is a mature, intelligent seventeen year old girl who doesn’t need anybody, well except for her best friend Schuyler that is, and has no interests in getting into a relationship at all. It is the start of a new semester at school and that means all new classes. Nine has decided to branch out from her usual science and math classes in hopes of sprucing things up a bit, not just material wise, but people wise. Everybody takes the same classes and she is tired of the same old people all the time. So she is taking a poetry class, and there is going to be a new teacher for it this year, she hopes that he is competent. She enters the class and waits for the new teacher, then in strolls the new teacher, he walks straight to the board and writes his name is big letters, “Mr. Mann,” he turns around and exudes confidence, slaps a sheet onto the overhead projector, and waits. Nine is captivated and taken in by this teacher, something she was not expecting. She is first to answer his questions and that was her first clue that something was different about this teacher.
This is a novel that covers some heavy, controversial material: student-teacher relationships. Carolina, aka Nine, is an intelligent, mature seventeen year old girl. When she meets her new English teacher, Mr. Mann, she is driven toward him physically and mentally. Now she knows it is not right to have intimate relationships with your teachers, but this does not stop her from pursuing him in a love affair. Mr. Mann is also just as guilty as Nine is. He knows he is not supposed to pursue such relationships with his student and could get into a lot of trouble for it, but he can’t seem to control himself. Until Nine turns eighteen they keep things PG-13, but the night of her birthday is the big night for them, because now they are legal. Nine challenges society’s, as well as her own, beliefs in what is right and wrong when it comes to student-teacher relationships. Most people would balk at hearing about a high school student and teacher participating in an intimate relationship. I have to admit I am one of them, but I stuck through to the end and what helped was Nelson’s writing that is so advanced, and it flows right off your tongue. But in the end it was clear that students and teachers shouldn’t get into intimate relationships because it causes a lot of issues. The novel is set up not so much in chapters, but more like sections that each has an inventive title of foreshadowing of what is to come. With a lot of heartbreak and broken rules this novel leaves the reader pondering what is right and wrong.
Have you ever had a crush on a teacher of yours? You know the incredibly attractive one that everybody lusts over? Have you ever wondered if it would become something more than a one sided crush? Nine never thought it possible, until she met Mr. Mann.
R.A. Nelson is the author of the novels Teach Me, Breathe My Name, Days of Little Texas, and Throat. Nelson was chosen as a Horn Book Newcomer. His novels have been nominated to the YALSA Best Books for Young Adults list, as well as, recognized by the Parents’ Choice Awards, the New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age list, Booksense Kid Picks, the Miami Herald Best Books of the Year, teenreads.com Best Books of the year, and the Michigan Library Thumbs Up! list.
Nelson’s novels have been published in Hungary and Germany. Nelson lives with his family in North Alabama and he works at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. He is the recipient of NASA’s Silver Snoopy Award for “outstanding support provided to the Space Shuttle program.” His novel Teach Me has been considered by Protagonist Films for a feature film.
Nine has fallen in love with her poetry teacher.
Reading Level/Interest Level:
Student teacher relationships. Some parents may not appreciate this novel because of the student teacher relationship that takes place. But it leaves a lasting effect on the reader, and the message is pretty clear that you shouldn’t get involved in these kinds of relationships.
Why I included this book:
I wanted to add something that had a bit of controversy in it and Nelson’s writing is one of the best I have read for a young adult novel in a long time. I heard of this book last semester when I was doing a project for a class.