Monday, 25 May 2015

Me & Mr J by Rachel McIntyre - Not Your Average Teacher-Student Relationship Tale

Me and Mr J by Rachel McIntyre
Review by Georgina Howlett

First Published in the UK: January 2015
UK Publisher: Electric Monkey (Egmont UK)

Summary (from Amazon): Sixteen-year-old Lara finds her soulmate. There’s just one problem – he’s her teacher. 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?

Review (WARNING: some spoilers)

I received Me and Mr J directly from Electric Monkey/Egmont, the publisher, due to the fact that Chris works there and I mentioned my interest in reviewing the book. I have always held very strong opinions about teacher-student relationships, and I have to say, this book didn't disappoint me when I read it.

First and foremost, the book deals with a LOT of complex issues besides the central teacher-student relationship plot. Bullying, blackmail, physical intimidation, family issues... You name it, this book covers it at least in some aspect. In many ways, this made it a difficult book to read in places, as the similarities certainly to my own experiences were very much there. However, McIntyre's flawless and simple writing style meant that in real time, it only took me a matter of hours to finish. I just couldn't stop reading it - it was both enjoyable and gripping, and made me think a lot about my own past, and therefore I can't fault her on the writing front; she did an excellent job of reeling me as the reader in and then maintaining my interest.

As the central plot, the teacher-student relationship had a lot of depth to it, making it very interesting and convincing to read. The book shows just how easy it is for both young students and young/newer teachers to fall into the trap of getting involved in a teacher-student relationship, and I think that this is ultimately one of the best messages that can be taken from the book. The media, especially in widely-publicised cases such as that of Jeremy Forrest (the maths teacher who fled to France with his fifteen-year-old student), often criminalise teachers to an extent where it is very difficult to sympathise with them at all or not blame them entirely for what occurred; Me and Mr J I feel showed a relationship that was more equal and level than that, and showed it for what it is often felt to be by the participants, rather than the onlookers who can often manipulate the facts. I commend McIntyre for not completely portraying Mr Jagger (the teacher in the book) as an evil and manipulative character, as it would be very easy to do so.

In this respect, I felt Mr Jagger's characterisation to be thoroughly convincing - quite a few of the NQT teachers I have met share both some  professional and personal aspects with him. Equally, Lara as the protagonist was very accurate; being a teenager myself still, the incidents of bullying and teasing I find very familiar and upsetting, as it was not long ago that I, too, was suffering from similar things. In addition, I confess that I am guilty of doing some of the things she did with regard to my own past teacher crushes - the number of relatable actions within the book that I found were actually quite disturbing, and showing my friends, they just raised their eyebrows and asked if I had secretly written the book. (I didn't, Rachel obviously did - not secretly, either.)

The only real issue that I had with the book was its ending, and this is due to my own desire for (practically) every relationship I read about to succeed, and little else. The 'little else' was the inevitably predictable outcome; I haven't read a book yet about a teacher-student relationship that succeeds, or that tells a success story - which do happen in many cases in real life. In this sense the book was slightly disappointing, but overall, I thoroughly loved it and would highly recommend it to all fans of YA - in particular those who love relationship stories, school-oriented stories, and quick, easy reads.
Rating: 5/5 Stars  ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Georgina Howlett

Georgina Howlett is one of the co-founders of the YA Fictionados, joining with Chris to make the idea a reality. She is best-known for her BookTube channel BritishBiblioholic, her book blog BritishBiblioholic Reads Books, and for stalking Derek Landy on a regular basis.

Follow Georgina on Twitter: @thereaderrunt
Find Georgina on Goodreads: Georgina Howlett

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