An affair with her high school French teacher reveals the unpleasant side of Riley’s seemingly perfect academic and social facade.
Blonde, white, blue-eyed Barbie doll Riley is socially gregarious, community service–oriented, and accepted into multiple Ivy League universities thanks to rigorous self-discipline. Her workload typically precludes her from dating and parties, so her two best friends are excited when she suddenly takes an interest in fashion and begins joining them on outings. What her friends fail to realize is that these new behaviors are Riley’s calculated effort to distract them from her affair with her white, devastatingly handsome, and married French teacher, Mr. Belrose. The fact that he was a high school friend of her older brother doesn’t lessen the predatory nature of his invitations and encouragement of Riley’s attentions. But as Riley’s chilling willingness to manipulate those around her is further exposed, it’s also difficult to view her entirely as Mr. Belrose’s victim. In fact, their almost bizarre jockeying for control of the relationship makes them seem perversely well-suited for each other. Morgan succeeds in evoking a more discomforting set of emotions from readers than might be expected from a standard student-teacher–relationship narrative. It could be darkly interesting were it not for the ultimately over-the-top final scene, which develops seemingly out of thin air.
A dark psychological exploration that stumbles at the end. (Fiction. 14-18)