Charlie, an insecure high school senior, finds herself in a troubling relationship with a teacher.
Charlie’s tense relationships with her casually cruel mother and her beautiful best friend pop up occasionally in this story, but the distressing heart of the book is Charlie’s relationship with Mr. Drummond, a man who deliberately blurs the lines between teacher and student by swearing in class, engaging in sexual innuendo, and initiating lots of “playful” physical contact with students. When lonely Charlie blossoms under his teasing attentions, he quickly encourages her crush through inappropriately personal, private conversations with her after school about his failed marriage; his reaction to finding her stalking him at his gym is to take her out to lunch. Though it takes some time, readers will be unsurprised by the graphically depicted sexual escalation of the relationship, especially given the increasingly shocking series of encounters that leads up to it. That is, shocking to readers though not to Charlie, who narrates the story with an all-too-believable, single-minded cluelessness. They are given glimpses of Drummond’s ambivalence and remorse, but a disturbing “what might have been” moment he and Charlie share at her graduation ends both story and Charlie’s character arc with unsatisfying ambiguity.
Ultimately, readers see almost none of the anguish that this relationship would likely have caused Charlie, which dangerously de-emphasizes the predatory nature of Mr. Drummond’s attentions. (Fiction. 14-18)