Book Review: Me and Mr J by Rachel McIntyre

Me and Mr J front cover

Me and Mr J by Rachel McIntyre
Release Date: 29th January 2015
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Buy: Paperback  Kindle
Rating:
5 star

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Fifteen-year-old Lara finds her soulmate. There’s just one problem – he’s her teacher.
Lara’s life has changed radically since her father lost his job. As the eldest, Lara tries to keep upbeat, and the one outlet for all her problems is her diary where she can be open about how dire everything is at home, and worse, the fact that she’s being horrifically bullied at school.
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 reciprocate her feelings … can he?

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Poor Lara T is having a pretty dismal time of things at the moment. Her family have had to move to a shoddy rented house after her Dad lost his business, meaning her Mum is working at every given opportunity as a cleaner just so the family can stay afloat (and pay Lara’s school fees). However no matter how strained things are at work they are a million times worse at school where Lara is relentlessly bullied for having ginger hair, a flat-chest and a surname that provides much amusement (For the record, her surname’s Titliss). Even her former BFF, Chloe has defected to the bitchy-side and joined forces with the vile Molly. Every bus journey is hell for poor Lara, as she recounts her rubbishy teenage life in a journal. However, everything looks set to change in Lara’s life with the arrival of her new English teacher and form tutor, Mr Jagger. Lara quickly becomes besotted with Mr J as he, in turn, seems to take a shine to Lara – listening to her, supporting her and just generally being gorgeous… But no matter what Lara’s feelings there’s no getting away from the fact that Mr J is her teacher and she is his pupil. Surely this relationship is destined to not end well….?

I’d been hearing lots about Me & Mr J (all of it good!) so I was really looking forward to discovering this story for myself. I was intrigued to see how things would play out; Rachel McIntyre is tackling two mahhhooosvie subjects here with both pupil/teacher relationships and bullying being brought into the spotlight.
I always go for books written in diary format; I think they’re great. You get such a personal insight into the narrator’s mind and in the case of Me and Mr J it really did feel as though I was having a snoop through Lara’s personal diary. Despite all of the horrible, horrible things that she’s experiencing in her life at that point, she never loses her sense of humour. Even when she’s in the darkest depths of despair she still manages to write her entries with warmth and an upbeat attitude. (Whereas I would be howling under the duvet & threatening never to come out…)
The bullying side of things was really hard to read. I was almost crying and it wasn’t even happening to me. I’d like to say it’s unbelievable that people could be so vile, but sadly it isn’t. In fact, it’s scarily realistic. My heart broke for what Lara was subjected too and there were points where I wanted to scream in outrage at the way she was treated. But still she carries on and makes do with writing funny comments in her diary when she gets home, which do go some way towards lightning the situation, but it’s still uncomfortable to take in at points.
For me, the bullying side of this story was probably a bigger theme than the pupil/teacher relationship which I wasn’t expecting.  The bullying that takes place is both physical, mental and touches upon cyber bullying too and in my opinion Rachel McIntyre didn’t shy away from exposing the true horrors of high school bullying, for which I believe she should be commended. The same goes for the pupil/teacher aspect of the story. I thought I’d have difficulty believing in a relationship between a sixteen year old and her teacher. Yes, we do hear about these things happening but I was worried that I just wouldn’t be able to envisage it in my mind – however, thanks to Rachel’s emotive and compelling writing, I actually could. I still don’t fully know what to make of the relationship between Lara and Mr Jagger. I love romance and there were points when I desperately wanted them to stay together, because they genuinely seemed to care for one another. But then the sensible, real-world side of me says pupil plus teacher equals wrong. From my impression of Mr Jagger I didn’t feel in any way that he was using Lara, which I thought I perhaps would. Achhhh, I don’t know. It’s such an incredibly tricky subject to even cover in a review so hats off to Rachel for writing a whole novel on it.
It must be daunting to release a debut novel covering such taboo subjects but Rachel McIntyre should really be commended for Me and Mr J as I think she’s done a brilliant job.
This is JUST the kind of book I would have devoured in my late teens and it would have resonated with me on so many levels. Some aspects of the novel, particularly Lara’s language reminded me of Louise Rennisons’ Georgia Nicholls novels (y’know the ones – Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging…?) Me and Mr J was dealing with more scarily serious subjects, but there’s that same injection of humour that can be found in Louise’s novels.
If you enjoy Young Adult novels with a bite then give this a go. It’s a stunning debut and definitely marks Rachel McIntyre as an author to look out for in the future…

 

A huge thank to you publishers Electric Monkey for approving me to read and review Me and Mr J via NetGalley. 
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Rachel McIntyre photoRachel is from West Yorkshire and now lives in Cheshire. She has worked in the USA as well as Spain, where she taught English and wrote travel guides and features. Rachel’s passions are modern literary fiction and live music – she’s a fanatical gig and festival goer. She writes contemporary YA fiction with a highly original voice.

Rachel McIntrye |  Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads |

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