Monday, 9 February 2015
Review: Me and Mr J by Rachel McIntyre
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: January 29th, 2015
Lara’s life is far from perfect, but being an upbeat kind of person she saves her venting for her diary. It’s the only place she can let out her true feelings about the family dramas and hideous bullying she has to face every day. And then a shining light comes out of the darkness – the new young and MALE teacher, Mr Jagger. The one person who takes Lara seriously and notices her potential. The one person who is kind to her. The one person who she falls madly and hopelessly in love with. The one person who cannot love her back … can he?
I was really excited about Me and Mr J when I first heard about it - the student/teacher relationship is always a fascinating one, and I thought it would be an exploration of what happens when a student has unrequited feelings for a teacher, and how that can be misconstrued. Me and Mr J wasn't at all what I expected and unfortunately I really struggled to finish it. The main character, Lara, was so immature for her fifteen years, and the bullying subplot seemed to take centre stage over the very worrying prospect of her actually having a full-blown affair with her teacher.
Lara is being bullied terribly at school, but she doesn't tell anyone and keeps it all to herself, building up like a Jenga game that will eventually come crashing down. She forms at attachment with her teacher, Mr Jagger, which starts as an innocent friendship and mutual respect for each other. Lara's feelings quickly change, and soon she's falling madly in love with him, even though she knows it can never go anywhere. Or can it?
Rachel McIntyre has tried to tackle a difficult, taboo subject here, but I personally don't think it worked as well as it could have. I'm not a fan of the student/teacher relationship when it actually becomes romantic - it's wrong and, in my opinion, no teacher should ever take that extra step with a student, no matter how well they get on or how much they like each other. Teachers have a responsibility to their students, and I would have liked to see that employed in this book. Mr Jagger didn't leave me with a good impression, but that's because he blatantly blurs those lines, even though he knows it's so very wrong.
If I'm honest, Lara really irritated me for most of the book and I just wanted her to grow up a bit. I wanted her to speak about her problems and the bulling, to sort it out and not just keep quiet out of fear. Bullying that bad should never be silenced, and I don't think it gives a good message to teenagers when it comes to how to responsibly deal with it. I did like the use of diary entries, though, and that still remains one of my favourite ways to tell a story.
Me and Mr J wasn't the book for me, but I'm sure there are lots of readers out there who will enjoy it and appreciate Lara's story. I'm glad I read it and I'm looking forward to seeing what Rachel McIntyre writes next - I just hope I like her next novel a bit more than this one.