Me and Mr J
by Rachel McIntyre
Summary: 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?
When I first started this book, I thought I wasn't going to like it much when I realised it was in diary format because that's normally not my kind of thing. But, it really proved me wrong because in the end I really, really loved it.
Lara was a great character, she was easy to like and sympathise with, and she could be laugh out loud funny at times too. Her story was such an emotional roller coaster -- it showed the impact bullying and trouble at home can have on someone, and how it can make them latch on to anything that makes them feel good about themselves for a little while, even if that something isn't good for them in the long run.
One of the things I liked most about the book is that Mr J was younger and he seemed like a really good guy -- in spite of everything that happened, he never seems like a bad guy, just a guy who made some big mistakes. I liked that it gave Lara those reasons to justify their relationship, because it's easy to say a teacher/student relationship is wrong when the guy is much older and he's kind of sleazy and pressures the girl into things. So I liked that it made them actually be kind of good together because it showed the shades of gray in their relationship while highlighting the thing that is always set in stone no matter how good they seem to be together: the older one is in a position of power and should be the one to walk away.
Seeing the story through Lara's eyes, it's easy to like them together because we're swept along with her emotions...but then there's conflicting moments where you snap out of that and "But it's wrong!" alarm bells would start flashing. And it's not because he treats her badly or because he's a bad guy...it's because he's in this position of authority and they're at such different stages in their life (and, his feelings for actually stopped him from doing what he should've done as a teacher to protect her). She may be old enough to know how she feels and what she wants, and it may not have felt wrong to them, but he was old enough to know better.
That's the reason diary format worked really well with the story, because it really showed Lara's age. It showed that while she may be saying and doing things that made her seem mature from his perspective, she was still too young and didn't have even close to the same level of life experience that he did.
Anyway...that's enough rambling. I'd rate the book 5 stars out of 5. I haven't felt so emotionally conflicted by a book since Stolen by Lucy Christopher, which is one of my all time favourite books so I think maybe this one has made that list too.