Teach Me by Olivia Dade

cartoon cover of a scowling/smirking fat white woman in a black dress and a slim white man in a grey cardigan and a blue tie against an aqua background with the tagline "even ice queens can melt"Why I read it:  I have enjoyed the author’s earlier books. Spoiler alert: this one is her best yet.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Their lesson plans didn’t include love. But that’s about to change…

When Martin Krause arrives at Rose Owens’s high school, she’s determined to remain chilly with her new colleague. Unfriendly? Maybe. Understandable? Yes, since a loathsome administrator gave Rose’s beloved world history classes to Martin, knowing it would hurt her.

But keeping her distance from a man as warm and kind as Martin will prove challenging, even for a stubborn, guarded ice queen. Especially when she begins to see him for what he truly is: a man who’s never been taught his own value. Martin could use a good teacher–and luckily, Rose is the best.

Rose has her own lessons–about trust, about vulnerability, about her past–to learn. And over the course of a single school year, the two of them will find out just how hot it can get when an ice queen melts.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I’m going to try not to gush but it’s going to be difficult. From the first page, I settled in to happily enjoying Teach Me. The characterisations are rich and layered, the messaging is strong without being preachy, the inclusivity is just there without it having to be a thing, an analog to the real world we live in.

As a hero-centric reader, I fell almost immediately for Martin who is a gorgeous cinnamon roll of a hero with his own vulnerabilities and pain points. He is ever and always respectful of Rose, of her desires and wishes and needs, of women in general in fact.

Not a single word from her mouth was objectionable. Not a single word from her mouth was personal, either. She didn’t ask him about himself. She didn’t tell him about herself. She didn’t smile. She didn’t do anything but give him necessary, job-related information.

And that was absolutely, unequivocally her choice. She didn’t owe him, a near-stranger, smiles or warmth or personal information or interest.

He’d told his daughter Bea the same thing many, many times over the years. Being a woman didn’t obligate her to make men—or anyone—comfortable in her presence. People who said otherwise could contemplate their terrible life choices while she shoved their arrogant presumption somewhere exceedingly painful.

Rose’s chilliness didn’t offend him. Not at all.

It did worry him, though.

First & Then by Emma Mills

A pattern of rainbow coloured raindrops around a white shape of a heartWhy I read it:  I borrowed this one from my local library.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Devon Tennyson wouldn’t change a thing. She’s happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon’s cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn’t want them: first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Most of the book was sweet, charming and very engaging. But there was one thing which really bothered me. More on that later.

Devon Tennyson is a high school senior. She considers herself average, ordinary and uninspiring. Her parents are still together, they all get along well; no major traumas have really touched her life. She has no particular passion; there’s no career or sport or hobby she’s all that attached to. She has a huge unrequited crush on her best friend, Cassidy (Cas) but otherwise, she thinks there’s not much all that interesting about her. She’s wrong of course because everyone is interesting in one way or another but I get where she’s coming from. And, in the end, she celebrates about herself some of those things she bemoans when the book begins.

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

faded colour picture of a dark haired Latino guy kissing a blond girl - faces onlyWhy I read it:  I borrowed this book from my local library.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she’s worked so hard for-her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more. In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.

What worked for me (and what didn’t): 

I’ve listened to (and enjoyed) Wild Cards (now retitled to Better Than Perfect) by Simone Elkeles and I know she has a reputation for writing great YA romance. So, I’ve had Perfect Chemistry on my radar for a while now but I’ve only just got around to actually reading it.

The story is told in the dual, alternating POV of Alex Fuentes and Brittany Ellis. They both go to the same Chicago high school. The story begins on day one of their senior year.

Brittany is from a wealthy family but her home life is not idyllic. Her father works a lot and is often away, her mother is obsessed with appearances and, apparently, perfection. Brittany’s sister, Shelley, was born with cerebral palsy and is quite disabled. She is confined to a wheelchair and is non-verbal. She can communicate through a computer keyboard which synthesises a voice for her and she does say a few words which are understandable to those familiar with her. She requires constant care but finding in-home helpers is difficult. Brittany’s parents consider sending Shelley away to a facility and Brittany sees this as a terrible option – one which punishes Shelley for being less than perfect and one which is done not for her (Shelley’s) well-being but for selfish reasons on the part of her parents. However, Brittany’s life looks, from the outside, as if it’s pretty perfect. She wears the right clothes, drives a fancy new sports car, is popular – including being the girlfriend of the star quarterback on the high school football team. She keeps her private life very private indeed – very few of her friends even know she has a sister, let alone anything else.

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