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R. A. Nelson

Author of Teach Me

17+ Works 754 Members 40 Reviews

Works by R. A. Nelson

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Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories (2011) — Contributor — 320 copies

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I read this ten years ago or something. I'd previously read "Teach Me," about a high school teacher preying on one of his students but it's from her POV and portrayed as totes okay guys, since she turns eighteen. I didn't make the connection that the two works were written by the same author at all, and was surprised when I figured it out, all those years ago. I was surprised all over again when I saw it now, on my goodreads feed. "Oh, that book. Oh, and it's that author? Hm. Gonna read it!" I was glued to the book back then, and I thought it was a great portrayal of all the issues it presented. Now...I have a lot more life experience and am a more critical reader. On second read, all these years later, this book is boring and melodramatic as shit. The characters are woefully underdeveloped, there's little to no plot, the flashbacks are useless and take up half the novel, Nelson can't convincingly write children, and there's a nonverbal autistic student in here for no reason. This is a vague character study. It doesn't even approach thriller. One line that was repeated was, "Well, you know Nix." Well, good for you, because I, the reader, do not, so I have no idea why he does things. But you do, so can you explain to me? No. Okay, that's your choice. Character relationships are not earned. There's no connection between anyone. Nelson just dumps quotes and references to off-page stuff in our laps and expects us to buy it. It's not even insta-love, because THERE IS NOTHING SHOWING THAT. NOT EVEN INSTA-LOVE BECAUSE THERE'S NOTHINGGGG. Had to state it twice, since it's true and anyway, this book -loves- stating things multiple times like it somehow showed it all beforehand. There's no showing, barely any telling, and I was unhappy.

This book purports to tackle the serious issue of a rare, severe, and severely misunderstood mental illness: post-partum psychosis. The teen's mother has it, and has been sick for a very long time. Originally I called bullshit, but I checked out a memoir from a woman who has it, too. The book is called "Inferno" by Catherine Cho and it explains the disease much more thoroughly. The memoir treats such a serious issue with fucking respect, and it's not a cheap, stupid plot device in an already boring book that is about nothing. No. Someone who -actually- experienced this illness talks at length about her family, her husband, his family, their backgrounds, HER CHILD, and how the illness manifested. She talks a lot about the mental hospital she's in long-term. I looked up the book and got into an interview that talked about her future. I was fascinated and felt vicariously hopeful.

This book has NONE of that. Take out the psychosis mom in this book, and just say, "my siblings died in a car accident where my mom was drunk," and this would already be a much better, more interesting, more realistic, more respectful fictional account. Mental illness is not a thriller plot point, Nelson, you moron. It's a very real issue that affects a lot of different people in a lot of different ways. The only thing this book got semi-right was that the psychotic mom was in a halfway house but--to still need to be in a halfway house ten years after murdering three toddlers? Do her psychiatrists just not care? Did I miss something? OH WAIT, NELSON LIKELY DIDN'T DO ANY RESEARCH. Seriously, dude. Sit down with psychiatrists, read forums...visit a hospital if you need to if you're going to write about something like this! Skip this book and read Catherine Cho's memoir instead.
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iszevthere | 9 other reviews | Jul 27, 2022 |
This review feels a little more personal than usual because I had a few similar experiences to the main character. I'm not sure what to warn for. "Teach Me" is a book where an adult man waits for a student to turn eighteen before they engage sexually, but it's an enormous power dynamic. So, dub-con. The one-sentence summary is basically the whole book.
I read this book over and over when I was sixteen. It was an enormous plate glass window into my mind and life at the time. I had a huge crush on my comp/lit teacher the year prior, the whole year. My teacher, like Nine's, read love poetry to me when we were alone. My teacher, like Nine's, married someone else due to pregnancy. Like Nine, I engaged in obsessive behavior and observed strange and little things about everyone around me. I never engaged in the stalking she does almost immediately after meeting her teacher, though. But this book made me cry and cry back then. I was really proud of the day that my heartbreak due to unrequited love faded. And I never wanted to read this book again. That was half my life ago. For the past two days, I have no idea why, but I wanted to reread it. I did, as an e-book.

Now would be the time to point out that I've grown and changed so much as a person since my teen years. I have. Now I point out how many women I've dated since having the crush: seven, over a period of fifteen years. None lasted longer than a few months, due to a variety of factors. I expected to whip through this book without emotion, and try to figure out at some point why I wanted to read a book with a power dynamic I can't stand. When I was totally eighteen, of course, I started writing teacher-student romance and cried a lot. My comp/lit teacher and I were still emailing back and forth on our personal emails. I tried awkwardly to flirt and just made my teacher uncomfortable. Our personal emails started a month into the school year because I wanted help with a novel I was writing. We were spending enough time together after school that my mom figured -something- out. Nothing physical happened. We switched to only email and my teacher wrote me a long, sweet email as I bawled in text-form about a recent breakup.

This book brought that up now, for a flicker of a moment. I'm not sanctimonious because nothing physical happened, only reading love poems aloud. I just forgot this book is about a teen who wants desperately to bang her teacher like a cheap drum and convinces herself she's being discreet. She's not. I wasn't, either. People knew, but again, nothing physical. The chapters are super short and quite plentiful for such a relatively long novel. I find this annoying, now. The chapter names are meaningless, stupid, and unnecessary. And yet, I get why certain teens love this so much. Nine and Mr Mann are both outrageously inappropriate with one another and don't care about getting caught, and hello, insta-lust on Nine's part and predatory behavior on Mr Mann's. Every word from him is a lie and he's creepy. Nine is just super-horny and for a budding astrophysicist, entirely ruled by her emotions. So, a teenager.

When I read the book the second and third time at age sixteen, I cheered Nine for crashing the wedding. The other times I read it, I was so sad for her, and me. Now, I just admire it as a creative way to start the novel. Halfway through the book, Nine's teacher doesn't want to have sex with her anymore. She spends pages upon pages exhibiting increasingly terrible behavior, and the story is accordingly unrealistic: she should have been arrested so, so many times. It's a small town, to boot! She turns into a parody of a 'Fatal Attraction' stereotype, and I usually adore the 'Fatal Attraction' trope. Not here. At all. She tries to dub-con Schuyler and is just a gross person. When Schuyler is hospitalized following a car accident, Nine worries about him for five minutes before jawing with Mr Mann about their relationship. Of course, Schuyler's fine. I was glad, since he's the most interesting and realistic character. I wanted Nine to face some kind of consequence, but she never does.

Nelson gets inside the mindset of a certain type of teen girl really well, I give him that. And this book helped me process a lot of emotion when I needed it. This came out right around the time my comp/lit teacher left, and this helped me cope at the time.
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iszevthere | 20 other reviews | Jun 28, 2022 |
DNF 32%

I've been waiting for like 6 years to have this book and read it and when I did it was only to be left with a bad taste in my mouth. I am tremendously disappointed and crushed, because forbidden love stories are my favorite, especially the teacher/student type however Teach Me didn't live up to my high expectations and to the faith I put in it :(
 
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Ash600 | 20 other reviews | Mar 19, 2021 |
This story played out in my head like as if I saw it as a movie on Lifetime. The extent of craziness Nine plays out in the aftermath of the breakup is insane, indescribable. However, I couldn't put this book down - I just felt like I was reading the juiciest gossip of a lifetime (when did I turn into such a wine mom?).
 
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thursbest | 20 other reviews | Jun 29, 2018 |

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