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Teach Me

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Teach Me invites readers inside an experience that fascinates everyone—an affair between a teacher and student—and gives an up-close-and-personal answer to the question: How does this happen?

272 pages, Paperback

First published March 22, 2007

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About the author

R.A. Nelson

10 books137 followers
R.A. Nelson's work was selected as a finalist for National Public Radio's list of the "Best Young Adult Fiction Ever Written." He was chosen a Horn Book Newcomer and his books have been nominated to the YALSA Best Books for Young Adults list and 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 others. Nelson is a recipient of NASA's prestigious Silver Snoopy Award for "outstanding support provided to the Space Shuttle program." Teach Me has been optioned by Protagonist Films for a feature film. His website is http://www.ranelsonbooks.com/

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 382 reviews
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
March 26, 2010
Wow! What an intense story. Certainly one of the most memorable YA novels I've read lately. And kudos to R.A. Nelson for channeling a high-school girl so well. Have I not checked out the author's website, I would have never guessed the book was written by a man.

"Teach Me" is a story of a love affair between a high school senior Carolina (Nine) and her poetry teacher Mr. Mann. Carolina is an excellent students who plans to study astronomy in college. She adds poetry to her science-heavy schedule to broaden her horizons. The moment Nine sees her new poetry teacher - Mr. Mann - she is completely taken by his wit and good looks. Her crush is encouraged by the teacher and soon their relationship becomes romantic and sexual once Carolina turns 18. The taboo affair develops steadily, the couple start talking about their plans for future and then suddenly Mr. Mann breaks up with Nine with no explanation and within days marries another woman. Carolina totally looses her head, she is in rage and thirsts not only for an explanation, but for revenge...

This is an extremely emotional story. It is excruciatingly painful to follow Carolina through her crush and obsession, her happiness and heartbreak, her rage and despair. Nelson is masterful in portraying feelings of a teenage girl consumed by her first love.

The weakest (or maybe the strongest) aspect of the book is its moral ambiguity. I started reading the book fully prepared to hate the teacher, to view him as predator and abuser. But it doesn't quite work out this way. The character of Mr. Mann is gray, he is portrayed as neither villain nor a good guy. This student/teacher relationship is complex and not easily categorized. I found myself confused and unsure what is right or wrong and slightly ashamed of being so ready to label an affair between Nine and Mr. Mann criminal, when I am totally fine with similar relationships portrayed in a more romantic way by various YA paranormal romances.

The relationship between Nine and Richard (Mr. Mann) is complicated. I am still thinking about it. I am confused, I am uncomfortable after reading "Teach Me," and this is a sign of a good book for me. However I suspect many readers will find the moral ambiguity of this story off-putting.
Profile Image for Susan L..
Author 3 books17 followers
September 5, 2008
I'm sorry, I try to avoid saying it when I can, but this book was terrible. Completely disappointing because at the beginning I thought it had a lot of potential, but it was completely rushed and unbelievable and at the end, completely crazy.

Points of interest:
1. The writing style from the beginning was odd. It felt very unfinished and even frantic, when what we needed was some sort of clarity. I'm not sure it was smart to start in the middle of the affair and not explain anything until later.
2. I did not like that his name was Mr. Mann. I'm not sure what she was trying to say about men with that name. I also thought Carolina's nickname, Nine, was more distracting than helpful to understanding her character. Though I did like how she felt like she was just a number to him.
3. Why was the whole thing with Alicia treated like such a mystery and almost like it was something horribly bizarre? I pretty much figured she was pregnant but the way they were going on about it I thought there must be something else.
4. The last half of the book is completely absurd. I almost thought maybe it was supposed to be satire except we really had no warning of that. I thought it was supposed to be serious and clearly the publisher thought that too (did they even read this before they decided to publish it?).
5. The paintball-pistol-OMG-shocker! scene. Seriously, WTF? That was cheap. I don't mind that Carolina was trying to shock the people at the poetry reading, but the fact that Nelson was clearly trying to shock the reader? That was just bad.
6. Carolina was completely off her rocker. Now, I don't have a problem with crazy characters; in fact, I like them. But her insanity seemed to come from nowhere. And sometimes she really acted 12 instead of 17/18.
7. I didn't believe her relationship with Mr. Mann either, especially at the beginning. The pacing was way off. Even if "in real life" it was that fast, we need to believe that. I didn't. I kept wondering why they were together, and all Mr. Mann kept saying was, "I've never done this before, but you're just so different!!!" Which told me nothing. Also the details were kind of fuzzy at the beginning. I couldn't really tell if they were sleeping together or not, but then on her 18th birthday it was clearly their first time together and from what I understood of Carolina she was a virgin before but they didn't linger in that moment at all, and Nelson treated it like it was no big deal. This was handled even worse here than in How It's Done.
8. I don't even remember the ending anymore but I think it was abrupt.
9. I did kind of like Schuyler. He was the best part. I think some of his scenes near the end with Carolina were bravely written and emotionally honest, and I like that. But at the same time they didn't completely work in the context of the story in my opinion.
10. The person who designed the book did not give enough thought to the subheadings. The font was too light and hard to read, and because they were right-justified I just ignored them and never read them.

Grade: C-

I just want to comment that I am not one of those people who thinks student-teacher relationships are "wrong" or "disturbing." That is unless the student is a minor (obviously) or if the student is, at that time, in the teacher's class (mostly because it's unfair to those students who are not sleeping with the teacher). I just wish someone would write a straight-up serious story with such a relationship that isn't borderline ridiculous. I love Blue Angel, but that one is clearly a satire and the rest have been either unbelievable or presented as a "message" story, in my opinion.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Danielle Harlow.
7 reviews59 followers
April 3, 2009
Maybe I am just too old-- but I really didn't like this book at all. I force myself to read all the way to the end of any book I start, because I feel like you really never know.. but at the end of this book-- I just wished I had a time machine to go back before I bought it. I think that, yes, obviously when you write a book, it is going to reflect your personally somewhat, but while I was reading this book- I couldn't help but feeling like the author wanted to include ALL her interests- to an extreme. It was written like it was MEANT to feel really intense-- to draw you in and make you feel what the character "Nine" was feeling-- but it missed the mark for me. I like books where I can relate-- even more so when I can relate to someone I wouldn't normally think I could relate to-- a book that I understand in a way that makes me question my OWN sanity. The insanity of the character "Nine" just made me feel embarrassed for her. And embarrassed to be reading the book in the first place.
Profile Image for Ida Smith.
3 reviews17 followers
July 2, 2012
This book is a must-read for anyone who has experienced an overpowering, out-of-the-universe crush on a High School teacher. Unless you have an abnormally profound passion for Astronomy, the intensity of a teenage girl’s emotional spectrum or simply like the idea of Emily Dickinson on Seville Marmalade, I would probably not recommend you to read this book and rather run screaming to Mongolia. Fortunately, I think most of us can relate to that High School moment when Mr. X came sweeping through the classroom door and The Police started echoing through the biology lessons for circa the rest of the year. No? Not? Just me? Oh... *heads for Mongolia*
Nine, our beloved protagonist, is intense. The novel is basically a stream-of-consciousness print-out from the mind of this INTENSE, science-addicted, INTJ, too-smart-for-her-own-good teenage girl. And she knows it. She knows just about everything. That is, until a certain Mr. Mann comes sweeping (“don’t stand, don’t stand, don’t stand so close to me”) and her senses are blown into the depths of the Sombrero Galaxy. Luckily for Nine, Mr. Mann doesn’t seem to listen much to Sting and is actually willing to sacrifice his cholesterol levels sky-rocketing just to be with her. There is passion, there is marmalade, there are Alabaman fields, and there is… intensity. Until there isn’t and Nine is left as pretty much just a number. With marmalade, though, thank heavens, because things get a little… intense.
I loved this book, and yes – I can relate to the main character. Not only because we could probably spend years discussing the best teacher-stalking strategies, but because I could sing right along to Nine’s introverted, raw and original voice. I love the writer’s exaggerated ironic humor and especially his extraordinary way of describing Alabaman architectural styles. Also, being a geeky science chick myself, I like the references to Astronomy and physics. The book is easy to read (though not always easy to follow) and will definitely stir your teacher-crush hormones if that’s something you can relate to. If not – hwell, visit your nearest teachers’ lounge and see for yourself.
Profile Image for Melissa.
42 reviews
December 4, 2013
Last night when I was finished...I thought maybe 2 or 3 stars, but the more it sits with me, the more I find myself thinking about it. All I do know is that the writers words are the bulk of this 4 stars. The heartbreak and complete unraveling of Nine made me ache. Did I think a seventeen year old would have much of this dialogue with themselves? No, I don't. However, Nine is more articulate, more introspective than most seventeen year olds. Plus her feelings of first love, which is actually more of first obsession, and then first heartbreak are palpable in such a devastating way you can't help but think that the writing is brilliant.

I don't condone a relationship between a teacher and student. I'm not going to debate the ethics of teacher getting into a relationship with an almost 18 year old student. It was an abuse of power no matter which way you paint it, but unlike a lot of stories that sensationalize such relationships, this book was different. Even in the media when a story comes out about a student teacher affair, it's often painted as sexual fling between an innocent teen and irresponsible adult. However, the relationship between Nine and Mr. Mann goes far beyond a teacher-student fling. There is mutual interests, mutual consideration and the way these characters are written, the relationship isn't sensationalized in the least. I believe they truly loved each other. I think he meant his words to her and when the time came for him to make a choice, he choose what he felt was 'best' for all involved. Could he have been lying and screwing around the whole time? Of course, But I don't think that was the case. I truly felt that Mr.Mann hated himself for what was happening and for that, I think he will live with regret for the rest of his life.

My real issues lie with Nine's detached parents who seem to have little idea of who their daughter is and just how much trouble she is. She unravels before their very eyes and....nothing. Mr. Mann learns/see's first hand her breakdown and while there are half-hearted attempts to help, it wasn't enough for this devastated girl. I just don't know if so many people could turn a blind eye when this girl is literally screaming for help. It seemed unrealistic to me.

It's hard for me to think this is a YA book. The emotions attached to it are even hard for me as an adult to digest. I do know this: I remember my first heartbreak and it was awful. However...you learn and grow from it and by the time you're an adult, you are better emotionally ready to deal with the blows. Nine never had that chance. As much as we says 'age doesn't matter,' in this case it truly did. She was not ready to be in an adult relationship when the guy turns out to be not who she thought he was. I don't know...it was all so very sad, but the saving grace was...I think Nine will be fine.

So. Yeah. Still processing. I think it's a thought provoking read, balancing what you think is 'right' and 'wrong' and ultimately, it was so painfully beautifully, I can't help but want others to read it. My heart still aches a day later.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rhiannon Hart.
Author 6 books245 followers
June 16, 2009
Carolina "Nine" Livingstone, an apt name for the daughter of a physicist, takes a poetry unit for her last semester of high school thinking it will give her a broader scope on life. It does that all right. For while Nine has plenty of smarts, she's not so accomplished when it comes to relationships. Nine falls for the new poetry teacher hard and fast, and it isn't long until Mr Mann begins to respond to Nine's hankering to be taught.

What surprised me when I picked this book up from the library shelf was the number of glowing reviews this book received in its year of publication (2005), not only from bloggers and authors, but from librarians. With its provocative title and subject matter, I expected titillation from Teach Me, perhaps even smut. But how smutty can a book be if the Iowa City School District gives it the Best Young Adult Literature Award?

The writing in Teach Me is exquisite. Incomparable. Utterly original. I'm finding it hard to write anything but platitudes right now. The writing is razor-sharp but never miserly; stuffed full of science and historical anecdotes but never tedious; emotional but never, ever cliched; extreme but never cringe-worthy.

I think how I'm feeling can be best summed-up by Nine herself:

There is not a name for what I'm feeling. There is no description for it. To call it yearning would be like calling the ocean water. Whatever this thing is, it shoves you inside itself and you can't measure its boundaries because they go too far and you don't have enough time. Or you move toward the boundaries and they move away. There has been an earthquake in my life. Catastrophic, civilization-ending.

This book is shocking, haunting, erotic, beautiful. It will make your throat ache with its sheer perfection.
Profile Image for Priscilla Thomas.
Author 2 books20 followers
March 15, 2008
Novels about teacher/student affairs always both repulse & intrigue me, especially YA novels. The first one I read was Gone by Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson, about a post-graduation summer fling between a male senior and his pretty, young, former teacher. The story was crushingly sad & overtly sexual, & it had an overall half-baked feeling to it, unable to compensate for such a disturbing & depressing story with stellar writing.
Teach Me reverses the genders & sets the story during the school year, without really addressing the complexity of that situation. The story is no less unsettling & depressing than that of Gone, but Nelson compels the reader through the whole miserable journey alongside a charming & endearing narrator, whom I just wanted to hug through most of the novel.
Carolina's voice, manically ranging from clever to crazed as the affair progresses & ends, is combined with an entertaining & suspenseful mystery-style plot to create a readable story about a reprehensible relationship, more than anything like a young adult Lolita. Nelson even has a touch of that Nabokov-ian fourth wall humor -Carolina's first & very taboo lover is appropriately named Mr. Mann.
But the overall test is whether or not I would feel comfortable putting this in a classroom library. I'm still on the fence. Like some more risque young adult lit, I have a feeling that certain students could read Teach Me & handle the subject matter, but not all readers are sophisticated enough for this in high school Language & tone are clearly young adult oriented, but including this book in a classroom library comes down to this: is the story Nelson tells strong enough that the reader won't get lost in the passion & excitement of the taboo relationship depicted in the novel? I don't have an answer to that, but I can say that Nelson does with Teach Me what Johnson could not quite make happen with Gone, & I'd recommend this novel over that to any reader, adult or teen.
Profile Image for Evan.
1,072 reviews739 followers
June 25, 2016
Every once in awhile I allow myself the luxury of writing a short review. This is one of those times.

R.A. Nelson's Teach Me starts out smarter than the YA-level that it seems hellbent on lowering itself to. Nelson does an excellent job at the outset capturing the mindset of a nerdy, gawky high school girl who has fallen in love with her English teacher. The book seems credible up to and slightly beyond the point where the affair is consummated but then becomes annoying in the second half as Carolina's desperation for some kind of closure leads to increasingly outlandish situations.

Nelson allows the protagonist the conceit of the asexual wisecracking eunuch male best friend/sidekick, Schuyler, (yes, as in Skyler; might as well have named him Percy Peabody or something) of the type who only exists in fiction and who I suppose is meant to prove that young boys can be good eggs, but which merely turns Schuyler into a bit of an insulting cipher. Nelson's unfortunate way with names extends to the name of the teacher: Mr. Mann. Yeah.

R.A. Nelson, by the way, is a dude, which R.A. and the publisher seem to go to great lengths to obfuscate via the virtually non-existent author bio and lacking photo. Maybe they thought it would hurt credibility/sales.

2016 note: I read this in 2011, and five years later actually have zero recollection of anything about it: no memories, no images, no impressions, no feelings whatsoever that have lingered.

(kr@ky, with very slight fixing in 2016)
Profile Image for Heather Gray.
69 reviews5 followers
December 29, 2008
Wow. What can I say. We've all had our crushes on teachers, but it was interesting to see it be reciprocated. Though every part of me was saying, "This is weird," or "this is so wrong," I could not help but want everything to work out ok for Mr. Mann and Nine.
It was hard to get a grasp of what Nine looked like and I was frustrated because I couldn't mentally connect to someone like her, but then I realized that we're in her head. We aren't supposed to know what she looks like. Given, sometimes I felt that she took her obsession a little over board. Ok. More than sometimes. But the thing is, part of me thinks that she had every right to freak out. It was interesting being in her head as she fell apart. It was also really neat for me because I was raised and even still live very close to Huntsville, Alabama. It's interesting being familiar with the landmarks.
The fact of the matter is that despite that this book was morally flawed, it was raw humanity - not always at it's best, but completely real.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
396 reviews
December 27, 2014
My Summary: Carolina ("Nine") is the type of girl you love to hate: practically a genius, she doesn't even try when it comes to grades and doing well in school. Always a bit of a loner, Nine finds herself drawn to the mysterious, unconventional English teacher(Mr. Mann), who gets her to challenge her own opinion of poetry and history.

Nine thinks this little crush is one-sided until the day she finds herself in the passenger seat of his car while he confesses his feelings for her. Soon the two are caught up in a secretive romance, always looking over their shoulders in case they are found out. But things can only end badly, as Nine discovers when Mr. Mann mysteriously breaks it off...

My Thoughts: Despite the controversial subject, I really enjoyed this book. Nine is such a quirky character that you can't help but feel for her during those tough moments, and even when she seems to go a little bit... well, crazy, you kind of wince a little but still hope that she gets a happy ending (or maybe that's just me - I'm a sucker for happy endings).

The other characters were great as well. I adored Nine's best friend (the poor guy had to go through so much!), and I really liked Mr. Mann as well, even if he is made out to be the 'bad guy'. You understood why he did what he did, and you couldn't help but feel bad for him after everything Nine did.

The writing was awesome. Pure awesomeness with extra awesome on top (does that make sense? I don't think so). R. A. Nelson has a really unique writing style that I really liked, and Nine's point of view is hilarious.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this for anyone who's curious about how exactly something like this could happen. It's a great contemporary lit book, but probably not for anyone under 16.
Profile Image for Sherrybaby.
39 reviews11 followers
November 8, 2009
i picked this book up again! &+ was seriously mad at myself for taking so long to read it. This book has the perfect amount of love, lost, breakdown, survival, and friendship.

Poor nine falls head over heels for a new male teacher.
teacher, starts flirting with nine, until there in a deep passionate
love affair. But when nine turns eighteen things take an awful turn,
mr. man doesnt want to be in a relationship with her anymore!
even worse he thinks they shouldnt even be friends! just steer clear of eachother! nine has a completely a different idea, and at first is determined to win him back. -and in the process she finds, HES GETTING MARRIED.... SATURDAY!-
crashing the wedding, sneaking in his apartment, tracking him at the airport, stealing his suitcase.. nine gets out of control, its not over til she says it is, til this empty feeling leaves.
"i pull out the pistol, shot. one, two, three."
"please dont let schyuler die, not like this!"
(^dont actual qoutes, dont have book on hand)
until finally, the book settles, happiness and growth are
begining to happen, life is being restored.
and this teacher, student relationship.. completely ignored. forgotten.
OVER, done.

nine loves, looses, finds, stalks, hurts, learns, grows, lives.<3
Profile Image for Diana .
158 reviews68 followers
July 14, 2009
many readers have been saying that they didn't like this book because Nine wasn't someone they could be empathetic toward.

As a nerdy anti-social loser, I felt the exact opposite.

That doesn't mean that I think it's ok to date a teacher as a minor, although they kept it secret till she was nineteen so technically, she didn't screw it up anyway. But her obsession was relatable to me. (Although my obsessions so far have been for fictional characters)

But part-way through the book, her insanity got to me. I started to think, is that guy really worth doing ALL THIS!? I mean, he was a jerk, but pulling a fake gun on him? Was that really worth it?

I mean, I guess it turned out alright in the end, but sometimes I was not sure what to make of her.

and poor, poor Schuyler. Always waiting for Nine...
Now THAT'S the kind of guy a girl should be with.
Profile Image for Cody Connolly.
35 reviews4 followers
February 22, 2016
Oh goodness, I'm so glad I can finally put this book down and not pick it up again. The idea of the book is so intriguing, it has all the elements to be great. But like a LifeTime Movie, it just doesn't deliver at all.

Profile Image for Kelly.
224 reviews19 followers
June 14, 2013
This review can also be found here on my blog, PaperFantasies

Usually I get a really good idea of a book by goodreads’ rating system. Usually a book rated in the lower half of three-point-whatever is a book I’m not going to like. Usually I’m the reviewer warning readers away from a much-loved book, not the other way around.

Teach Me is one exception to that rule. With a current rating of 3.41 and many of the top reviews one or two stars, I feel like this book is extremely underappreciated. Now I know that not all books are for everyone, and in no way am I trying to say that my bookish opinions are more valid than anyone else’s. But if you know what the book is about and are okay with its subject matter, I honestly feel like Teach Me delivers what it promises, and does so in an intense, believable, entertaining way.

Carolina - or “Nine”, as she calls herself - is a seventeen year old high school senior. She’s incredibly intelligent – think John Green’s nerd characters. When she first meets her English teacher Mr. Mann, she’s struck by the force of his personality, and the rest of the book takes us into her unhealthy obsession with the older man. Because no one who has read this book can deny that that’s what it is; obsession. Before The Thing…and most definitely after.

The thing about this book is that it does take us into the taboo, forbidden world of teacher-student relationships. It explores it physically, emotionally, and ambiguously. There is no Big Bad Teacher taking advantage of his poor student, fully aware of the moral repulsiveness of the act. There is no blatant seduction, no pressuring, no manipulation of authority. Yet there is heartbreak, there is a teenager left wondering why, with no one to talk to and no way to get back what she gave away. Left with nothing but her burning need to know and get revenge, Nine’s obsession with Mr. Mann gets very dangerous and very dark toward the middle of this book, changing the tone drastically and thrusting us into the mind of a scorned Carolina before she has the wisdom to call herself a woman. If you don’t think you’d like reading about that, you won’t like Teach Me, which I think is where a lot of the one-star ratings comes from. But as long as you know what you’re going into before you start, you’ll quickly be drawn into the story and its characters, and taken into the volatile mind of Nine.

I found myself thinking about this book as what would happen if Laurie Halse Anderson’s books and John Green’s books had a love child. Nine and her best friend, Schuyler, are nerds epitomized. Their dialogue could match any of John Green’s trademark characters’. The dark, spiraling subject matter is very reminiscent of something Anderson, queen of teen angst, would write about. Any fans of quite possibly the two most influential YA contemporary authors will most likely find themselves loving R. A. Nelson’s writing.

Another very strong theme to and aspect of this book is its inclusion of poetry, almost exclusively Emily Dickenson. I’m not a big poetry fan, but I found myself enthralled right along with Nine when Mr. Mann talks about Dickenson with such obvious enthusiasm and zeal. When his response to a student complaining about poetry being boring is to kill poems one by one, I arched an eyebrow in skepticism until I realized Mann’s angle. “‘But how do you kill a poem? … The bad ones are easy. You just leave ‘em alone; they eventually just fall over and die. The good ones are tough. The harder you try, the stronger they get.’” Ahhh, I see what you did there, Mr. Mann. It’s no wonder Nine fell so hard for him; I would have, too.

Emily Dickenson’s poems and personal life have recurring mentions and meanings throughout. Nine turns to her in both love and betrayal; she sees hidden meanings in Mr. Mann’s favorite of her poems Her personal unhealthy love life and questionable sanity pair wonderfully with Nine’s growing obsession with her teacher, and the whole thing tied in so well. It didn’t feel forced or like a hook; it just worked.

I will admit, though, that the strongest part of Teach Me is its first half. Nine and Mr. Mann, despite the wrongness of their relationship, are actually…cute together. The build-up feels natural as seen through the eyes of a seventeen year old girl, and the moments of hesitation and doubt Mr. Mann shows when it comes to their relationship steadily moving forward work wonders to make it impossible to completely vilify him later on. When their relationship abruptly ends, that undeniable chemistry, the fun dialogue and clever repartee, they end with it. Though Nine’s plunge into darkness and misery is believable, though her friendship with Schuyler and vengeful plans keep those pages turning, the novel undeniably loses something wonderful that it had in the first half. And the end, it could have been better. I’ll admit it. The explanation Mr. Mann finally gives Nine for ending things with her with absolutely no warning or closure seems weak, and is the only thing in the entire novel that felt more like a plot-device than an effortless addition to the story.

But if you came to me and said, “Kelly, there’s this book I’m kind of interested in reading, Teach Me by R. A. Nelson. Would you recommend it?” I’d not only say yes, but thrust the book into your hands and warn you against starting it on a night you’ll have to put it down before you finish.

Trust me on this one. If you can handle dark, taboo tales of romance-gone-wrong, you won’t want to miss Teach Me.
Profile Image for Megan.
418 reviews385 followers
August 14, 2010
The Goodreads synopsis claims that Teach Me "...invites readers inside an experience that fascinates everyone, an affair between a teacher and student, and gives an up-close-and-personal answer to the question: How does this happen?" However, I didn't find that to be the case. R.A. Nelson showed us a highlight reel of Nine's affair with Mr. Mann. We read of their first meeting in class & outside of class. We see Mr. Mann interact with Nine once at her afterschool job, once during a charity event/chance meeting. And, of course the reader is there the first time they kiss, have sex, and talk of the future. Otherwise, the relationship is viewed through Nine's thoughts and emotions. The majority of the novel focuses on Nine's increasingly unstable and fanatical behavior once the relationship ends. (And, no this isn't a spoiler ~ we learn this was a short-lived affair in the first few pages.)

Furthermore, I believe Nine’s conduct isn’t the result of an affair with her teacher. It’s more the product of Nine’s wacko personality. Yes, Mr. Mann ends things badly… but frankly, so do many high school boys. Had Nine’s first love been with anyone else, and it ended the same way, I believe she would have been just as irrational. The only difference here is that due to the forbidden student/teacher aspect Nine is less inclined to share the pain of her breakup with anyone else. Instead, she is forced to internalize her negativity and let it fester until it drives her crazy.

While I did enjoy this book, and it left me thinking about it for a long time afterwards, I can’t bring myself to give it more than 3 stars because the characters were just so unlikeable. Mr. Mann is the obvious villain ~ an older guy seeking a relationship with a teenager. Yes, we do see a few of his personal demons and learn some of the reasons why he felt compelled to start this relationship. But explaining his behavior doesn’t make him a nice guy. And even if he hadn’t sought out an inappropriate relationship, he was still portrayed as a bit of a douche. Nine…my reasons for disliking her are more personal. She just reminds me sooo much of a former friend of mine, so perhaps my irritation with her is stronger than it would be had I never met Girl X? Nine is a loner, partly by being a socially awkward intellectual, and partly by choosing to be a snob. She spends a lot of time in her own head. She thought she knew people so well, because she quietly observed them… but how much can you really know anyone, or anything, if you never allow yourself to become involved? For as observant as Nine claims to be, she becomes self-absorbed very easily, and has no problem ignoring people and situations while she wallows in her depression. Okay ~ she is a teen, her first love went badly, and everyone deserves a fair amount of self pity when their heart is broken. But this girl takes it to extremes. Anyway…Nine’s only friend is Schuyler, the most obnoxious sort of teenage boy ~ cynical, snarky, always throwing out random facts and historical references, and using his intelligence to both prove and shield himself.

While I didn’t like these people, I did love the way they are presented. Nine, Mr. Mann, and Schuyler are flawed and insecure. R.A. Nelson does not cast judgment on them, nor does he give them redeeming moments or sudden epiphanies. Rather, he allows the reader and the characters to figure out for themselves what was right, and what was wrong. While Teach Me didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I did like it enough to read more of R.A. Nelson’s work.

Profile Image for B.E..
76 reviews10 followers
May 23, 2009
The synopsis? A smart, pretty, very tall loner senior joins a poetry class to kill time. The result is one teacher she can't ignore; he is everything she sees in a man and their love affair is a tension-building, romantic fantasy come true. "Giving every notion of right and wrong" their affair takes a tumble after Mr. Mann leaves her and marries. The result? A compulsive obsession with extreme focus.
The protagonist is Carolina "NINE" Livingston. A young woman who is super focused and practices observation as an art. She is bright, different and has one friend, Schuyler. Her mind is a work of pulleys, levers, cogs and thoughts of stars and galaxies. She is fast, linear and you are reading through her thoughts. The affair begins as a tension filled friendship, playing cat and mouse with much uncertainty but once their union is complete it is obvious that this is ...love. She can't help it, this is what it is...
I have so much feeling about this book. I can't begin to describe it. Firstly the protagonist, Nine, is so fast paced, so eloquent and technical and such a dreamer. She is so focused, almost to an OCD level. She is amazing. And what starts as a crush develops one can see how multi-layered Nine is.
Mr. Mann the teacher is an amazing subject as well. He plays real, he seems fair and the way it is told he does seem perfect... no he is perfect. He's beautiful and loving; sweet and manly. Nine and Mr. Mann REALLY love each other and that is what gets me. This book is so intense, fast paced and catastrophic in every page.
I think what I love about this book is the truth it holds; the wonders it tells of how a human works. We can become obsessive about what we believe we love or about what we care about, what we hold important. We see justification in our insane actions and rambling thoughts. We have love and it leaves us, for better or for worse. Mr. Mann and Nine's relationship is so extremely different from that of any book or movie I've seen. It is so real and fresh and scary and intense through the pages. I can feel their love and passion, I can see their tension and relate to a feeling so indescribable, yet Nelson executes it perfectly.
Mr. Mann and Nine's relationship totally got me... I don't know what it is. The unfairness of how it ended... how he loved her and it was true. How simple it was for them to join-- but in one swift mistake it was all gone. No explanations, just a bitter, empty and changed Nine.
This book makes me cry when I think about it. Nine is so passionate and truthful. She explains her hurt so well I can feel as if it is happening to me...that I am Nine. I feel her pain and her despair. I see the justice in her actions, the wrong of it all. She loves him, isn't it all that matters!?
Honestly I cannot believe how much this book impacts me. Nine shows just how desperate we humans get when we do not want to believe, when we can't take something in and when we have last hopes that leave us empty. I can feel with Nine, I am scared with Nine.
I can write more and more about how I feel. This book is an amazing piece.

Profile Image for Hweeps.
147 reviews47 followers
March 31, 2012
I have been wanting to read Teach Me for a very long time now because of the premise. But because there was this whole slew of other similar-premise books, Teach Me didn't exactly stand out in any way to me. But when I saw it at the library today -finally- (I was at a different library than the one I usually go to), I felt a compulsion to borrow it despite the pile of work I have to get down to doing...someday.

Teach Me was unlike anything I'd expected. This was no cheap, trashy romance (not that I'd expected one); no naive teenage girl getting special attention, and coming from a bad family situation; nor was it anything distinctly forgettable.

The writing is really exquisite. I got the feeling after finishing the book, in a way I'd never felt before, that the entire book was practically a poem. It's written in prose, yes, but the lyrical nature of the lines almost made me want to weep at some parts. With the perfect and precise insertion at the right times of Emily Dickinson's poems... It just completed this work of art.

I kind of wanted to own the book before and after I was done with it, because there were so many lines I wanted to pore over again at my own time, and keep them for myself. But soon I realised how pointless that was, because on just about every page were beautifully crafted lines I longed to own.

The book reads a little unlike what you might have been expecting. It's a narrative, but yet also like a sort of journal. Carolina/Nine is an intelligent teenager and despite her vast interest in the sciences (I absolutely appreciate how little nuggets of info and facts are seamlessly woven into the text. It contributes that much more, and I feel only some authors can do this successfully.), she manages to be extremely eloquent and skilled at using words to share her feelings, her emotions, her thoughts, and perhaps most of all, her intensity. Being a most intensive person with intensive views and beliefs, I can tell you that Teach Me makes for a very intensive book. -.- I read it in about 4-5 hours? When I should've been doing Math and Chemistry and -okay never mind, I know I don't regret it.

As for the content... Well.. Nelson manages to make it a rather memorable story for me. The extent of the it shocked me. The way it was written, , and gave so much credit to her emotions. The way she was struggling to find explanations.

Also, the descriptions she provided for herself of being in love. She managed to not make things sound sappy, and yet let me understand the gravity (or maybe lack thereof... falling in love..geddit??) of her feelings.

All in all, this was a most well-written book that deserves more recognition and acknowledgement. I am so looking forward to reading more of the author's other works; after reading Teach Me, I cannot doubt her talent and ability. I refuse to believe it would waver or change for the worse.
Profile Image for Arminzerella.
3,743 reviews87 followers
January 2, 2012
Nine (Carolina) has never bothered herself with high school boys. She’s too smart, she’s too individual, and she’s too picky. None of them has ever sparked any kind of interest in her. No one in her high school has – until she meets the new poetry teacher, Mr. Mann. He’s brilliant, he admires her intelligence and her wit, and she develops an intense crush on him. It seems her every wish is going to be fulfilled when she learns that he shares her feelings. They begin meeting secretly so they can talk, and kiss, and make love away from prying eyes. Carolina, who had so many plans for herself after high school, finds herself writing Mr. Mann into all of these plans. He seems happy to be a part of her life. And then, he cuts her off without any explanation, saying that they can’t be together any more. And then she sees his wedding announcement in the paper, and starts plotting her revenge. What Richard Mann can’t seem to understand is Nine’s insatiable desire to figure out why he’s dropped her. If he’d just clear up the mystery, she’d be able to move on.

I think most people experience some kind of insanity when they go through a bad breakup. Most of us will not take it to the extremes that Nine does – we aren’t going to stalk, and humiliate, break into anyone’s apartment, or pretend to shoot our exes. But we may recognize her feelings – hurt, frustration – and her desire to do something, anything to fix it.

The topic is kind of hands-off – an underage girl fornicating (!!) with an older man (Mr. Mann is supposedly in his early thirties) who is her teacher. There’s a lot of taboo there. But their relationship, however forbidden, seems to be a union of equals. Emotionally and intellectually Carolina and Richard Mann seem well-matched. He’s lived longer, but he’s still somewhat adolescent; she’s an actual adolescent, but she’s much more grounded and self-assured. People may be reluctant to believe that such a thing can exist. This is not a story where things get all creepy and dark because one party is forcing the other party into doing something s/he feels is wrong. It does get weird because Carolina is so upset and hurt when Mr. Mann calls it off. A fascinating read for older teens who like a bit of the crazy mixed in with their romances.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
860 reviews
June 28, 2011

Uncomfortable topic? Yes. Well written? Yes.

Carolina "Nine" begins a parent's nightmare of having an affair with her
teacher, the complicated, tortured and sensitive Mr. Mann. As the
romance intensifies, and then abruptly ends, Nine must deal with the
consequences and face who they were to each other; great loves or
mr./mrs. right now. As with most teenage breakups, this one is full of
drama, loathing, conflicted feelings and anger. But unlike most, because
of the taboo situation, it adds another layer of heartbreak.

Nelson does a fine job showing the relationship as Nine sees it- Two
lost souls who have finally found each other. Never mind the age
difference. Never mind he's her teacher. Never mind she's 17 when they
meet. It's first love. It's young love. Then why is it so wrong?
the novel brings up questions no one has the answer to. Is it wrong
because of the age difference, because she's so young or because of the
teacher-student relationship? Perhaps all three.

All of these questions are there as Nine begins her descent into
chaotic madness. Her drastic actions cause a lot of pain. But she's
hurting. And ... does he deserve it? Didn't he know it was wrong?

I can't say I was rooting for Nine and Mr. Mann. They're both selfish,
self absorbed creatures, so in that way they are perfect for each other.
But I'm also sympathetic. I can say she's just a teenager, but really
at 17 teenagers aren't quite so innocent as we may like to think. Her
obsessive, sad, self destructive behavior I can relate to, as most
people can. She goes a little crazy, and really who doesn't go a little
crazy when love is gone. Nelson's writing captures the despair of a
teenage break up, the confusion and abandonment. And the ending, well,
it does answer who they were to each other. Or who they could have been.

So in the end, I thought this book should be read.
Should be digested slowly, every exciting second of falling in love with
Mr. Mann, every uncomfortable moment of tearing out Nine's heart.

And putting it all back together again.
Profile Image for Krissy P (Kris).
313 reviews53 followers
January 6, 2013
Good story, August 16, 2010

Teach Me is a controversial story about a young 17-year old girl who falls in love with and begins a physical relationship with her teacher, Mr. Mann. Mr. Mann knows what he is doing is wrong, but can't help but be drawn to Carolina ("Nine") because she is very intelligent and "different" from everyone else. They spend an increasing amount of time together and he eventually has sex with her when she turns 18. Shortly after they take their relationship to that level, he suddenly breaks things off and gives her no reason why. She finds out he is getting married which sets her off on a mission to get to the bottom of "why". Nine becomes almost scary in her stalkerish behavior, but no matter what she does, you can't help but feel the hurt and anger with her as she is getting to the bottom of the mystery of why Mr. Mann did what he did, with the help of her bestfriend Schuyler.

This was a good story that had some shocking elements to it, especially the end. I did have some issues with Mr. Mann for obvious reasons. He is supposed to be the adult in this situation, in his thirties, he is her teacher and he messed this kid up pretty badly with his actions. I don't care how good looking the guy is or what kind of connection they felt for each other, their relationship never should have happened and she was just a kid, no matter how much she did not act like it. Mr. Mann, in my opinion, was an immature coward. I hated how he took away her innocence and deceived her into believing that he truly loved her and that there was a possibility of a future together. He may have apologized to Nine for what he did to her, but I never felt like he had any true remorse. To me, it seemed that he expected this kid to just instantly get over him while he continued to enjoy his life with his new wife. My major gripe with this book was that he did not get what he deserved and never had to face the consequences of his actions. I also would have enjoyed a confrontation between him and Schuyler. However, this was still a great book and is one of those stories that will stick with you long after you are done reading it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
11 reviews
February 17, 2009
Does the teacher also fall in love with the student?
Mr. Mann does indeed fall for Carolina. You can see as their relationship grows he seems more and more intrigued by her.

Does Carolina believe her and Mr. Mann are meant to be? Yes she believes they are meant to be because of her reactions throughout the relationship. She is always beseeching him to just be with her and forget life in general besides them together.

Who truly loves and cares for Carolina as more than a friend? Her best friend Schuyler adores everything about her. He loves every move she makes and sticks by her even though sometimes she can be a little crazy.

Why does Carolina fall so hard for Mr. Mann? Carolina sees Mr. Mann as a danger and new and exciting road in her boring everyday life. It's easy to fall in love with something that goes against everything you have ever known if you put everything in it as she did.

Why does Mr. Mann choose in the end to definetely move on? He realizes what he has done is completely wrong. As his girlfriend comes back into his life reality kicks in and he finally sees the harm he is doing.

Does another person make you the person who you are? You have to be independent to get anywhere in life. Life is full of ups and downs so when you fully rely on someone to make you the person you are when they leave your life where are u? Carolina made herself insane because she let Mr. Mann define her when she needed to figure out who she was. Relationships sometimes are what people need but some people just can't handle the backfire when it all goes wrong.

Profile Image for Kaisa.
106 reviews122 followers
March 30, 2011
I rate this 3,5/5... just so you know.

I'm shocked that I'm not giving it a higher rating. I really am!! Especially the part of me that read the first half of the book (well... that sentence doesn't make sense), because that part of me LOVED it to death!!... But yeah, then the second part of the book came along and I started getting frustrated.
Not at the writing.
NEVER at the writing.
Oh, R.A. Nelson, you write like I write in my dreams. Witty, clever, interesting... always interesting.
But your main character drove me mad! (with her madness)

I knew she'd go crazy jealous and vindictive, but I didn't know she'd turn into a selfish freakshow. I mean, her friend is the best friend in the world for dealing with that... obsessive monster.

Was that the only problem I had with the book?
Well, yeah. Pretty much.

My favourite character was mr. Mann. Too bad he was made out to be the bad guy. I felt for him. I understood him. I wanted more of him. Did he make a mistake? Heck yes he did!! But I always understood him as a person, which is more than I can say for Nine. (main character)... Of course, I've never even been close to having emotions that strong, so I didn't expect myself to understand.

Conclusion: The first part of the book will make your heart pound, the second part of the book will... possibly make you want to pull your hair out. But the ending's quite good.

...OH! And picture a nice quirky celebrity crush as the teacher.
...It's what makes or breaks it, I believe.
Profile Image for Steph Su.
949 reviews452 followers
June 4, 2009
Love, obsession, and revenge all come together in this dizzying and sensuous tale. In her senior year of high school, Carolina “Nine” Livingston falls hard for her new English teacher, the beautiful, poetry-loving Mr. Mann, who quotes Emily Dickinson all the time. Mr. Mann makes Nine feel things she didn’t even know she could feel, and she believes that the two of them will one day live together, marry, and go on their dream honeymoon.

Then a sudden announcement from Mr. Mann changes everything. Nine is left floundering in a world that’s suddenly too big and too small at the same time. Her emotions spiral out of control and she can hardly control them, eventually endangering the lives of Mr. Mann, her best friend, and even herself. When will she learn to stop just doing and to start thinking?

TEACH ME is poetic and scary and reminds me a lot of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. The characters stayed with me long after I had put down the book. Everything in Nine’s world feels eerily real; you will feel like screaming at her for her actions while at the same time feeling her hurt. The author has done a beautiful, near-perfect job of portraying a devastating affair between student and teacher. If you are not faint-hearted, then pick this book up.
Profile Image for Mee.
46 reviews10 followers
March 11, 2015
Thanks for the rec, Brit <3


Nine is such an intense character to get into. Her thoughts are definitely more mature and I think that's why when everything spiralled and when she unravelled, it made for a really addictive read.

The first half of the book was definitely the lighter part. We could see the relationship developing and I really felt like it was real. Nine's head was such a . . . it seemed lonely and Richard just brought colour into it seems. And then everything started breaking apart in the second half and her obsession for everything was amplified. Granted some of the things she did were probably freak as fuck at best, but being inside her head while she did those things made it make sense. It's so weird being able to see why she does so many crazy things and it's even weirder when you can completely see where she's coming from. Does that make me crazy? Maybe. Probably. More likely than not.

It's intense. It's wild and it's fucking crazy. How could I not love this?
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 7 books96 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
July 14, 2016
What I told my friend: The narrator is one of those insufferable So Super Smart teenagers that turns every conversation into a dick-measuring contest of obscure referencing. I'm so over this encyclopedic wank-off John Green bullshit.
Profile Image for someone.
8 reviews
April 1, 2023
Nelson, a white cis middle-aged man (when writing this book), writes from the point of view of a 17 year old, all-american brainiac girl (she’s super duper muper smart). He claims he doesn’t consciously write YA, that it’s all a subconscious need to escape from the adult responsibilities of having 4 children and a wife and boring adult stuff. He states “I want to be Nine, the protagonist of my novel Teach Me, who likes to strip down to her bare essentials and sneak out in the backyard with her telescope for a little dangerous moon-gazing in the middle of a suburban night.” First and foremost, nowhere in the book is Nine given this much personality. Secondly, Nine is nothing but a person with no remorse and anger issues. She physically and sexually assaults her best friend, Schuyler, multiple times. She physically assaults her teacher, Mr.Mann, a 37 year old attractive white cis-male, and harasses his eventual wife and the wife’s father. She harasses his parents, she punches some teacher at school, and decides to do this quirky thing where she walks into a public establishment, pulls out a gun, and points it at Mr.Mann. A tone deaf attempt of “making a point”. Bro that’s not okay. We are living in a society—with a gun-violence epidemic. Nelson normalizes this behavior because it is “casually” written into the story plot. It is not okay for women to physically or sexually assault/harass anyone! Check your fucking double standards! There were so many triggering scenes where she forces herself onto Schuyler, especially a scene where she gnaws at his lip bloody and raw! And the book ends with everyone asking for forgiveness because she can’t help and self-victimize. The beginning of this book is really about a man grooming a touch-starved child, but then it quickly turns into a sociopathic girl! And I don’t throw that lightly because she gets Schuyler to drive her to this public establishment and doesn’t tell him about the stunt, calls him over dramatic, and then proceeds to get him into a car accident because she wanted to follow Mr.Mann. So clearly, the life of another human is simply a chess-piece to get what she wants. And ofcourse, it reeks with stereotypical gendered sprinkles. Like men not knowing how to clean and women knowing how to do it better. Also, the women in this book are always labeled as “ugly” or “pretty”. And the men? Well, you don’t really know how they look. Except that Mr.Mann is very attractive and blue eyed. Please don’t read this book. I read the whole thing. Spite is a very powerful motivator. Nelson, whatever you do, please stop. Let this stopping of things be your contribution to society.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Elly.
190 reviews5 followers
June 25, 2022
if i could give this zero stars i would. this is literally the worst thing i've ever read. the plot? non-existent. the writing? all over the place. the characters? insanely childish and embarrassing. this was just so awful. truly something that should never have been published.

the story begins in the middle of the affair, but even when it flashes back, i don't understand how it even came to happen. there's no build-up, nothing. the relationship appears out of nowhere. i was hoping for a truthful and wrenching depiction, as i've just read "My Dark Vanessa" (which was truly brilliant, 5/5), but this was sloppily written, with no regards to any real issues.

the characters gave me second-hand embarrassment. they're meant to be 18 but they act like they're 12, and the teacher is meant to be in his 30s but acts like he's 15. there's endless references to space and NASA and literary things, which aren't smart or clever at all, they're just fucking annoying and overused. it made me physically cringe reading some of the scenes between characters.

there was no real structure. for most of what i read, i felt like i was missing something, and then missing huge somethings. it skips over weeks and months as if it's nothing, removing any development that could've happened. the pacing was just ridiculous.

i knew this was going to be awful around 3 chapters in, but i carried on reading out of hatred really, just to be able to write this review. i got to around page 100 before giving up for my own sanity. they don't act like normal people. they don't speak like normal people. i've read better fanfiction written by children than whatever i read in this book.

i hope no one ever has to read this book again. i bought it second-hand but it wouldn't be worth even a single penny. i'm literally throwing it into the recycling bin; i don't even want it on my bookshelf.
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