Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Teach Me (to write like you) -- Eve

I just finished reading Teach Me by R.A. Nelson, and I need to just say, WOW! It’s an extraordinary exploration of how obsessive love affects the teen psyche and how arrested development affects the adult psyche. The second I put the book down, I emailed R.A, thinking he was a woman, don’t know why. Maybe because he seemed so cozy inside Carolina’s head, so at ease, so…girly. Turns out, he’s a guy, like a manly-guy, who’s like a rocket scientist or something at NASA. Man, that dude seriously scored in the talent genes department. I want to be him in my next life.

What I love most about Teach Me:
  • It’s intelligent and profound without being pretentious.
  • Nailed the yearning, angsty teen girl perfectly.
  • Infuses science in a natural and compelling way.
  • Language is poetic and pretty without being flowery or contrived.
  • The suspense captured me from the first sentence and I could not put the book down or exhale until the final sentence.
  • Funny, funny, funny! Teen funny, not too grown-up funny. (Beezle-Bob. They call their boss at “The Ground-Up Cow Face Burgers” Beezle-Bob. Hilarious!)
  • Easy to read. There’s not one unnecessary word in the entire 264 pages.
  • Kid-friendly, kid-friendly, kid-friendly. The teens speak like teens, act like teens, and have real teen emotions.
  • Symbolism at every turn, but effortless, natural, not hit-you-over-the-head metaphors.
When I first heard about the book, I was concerned that a “passionate romance between student and teacher” would boil down to a yucky soft-soft-core porn blend of Lolita, Wild Things and the Mary Kay Letourneau story. Fortunately, it was neither yucky nor soft-soft-core porn-y. In fact, the relationship seemed quite tender and natural. At first. Then, of course, it turns into something else completely.

Teach Me is my new go-to book for learning how to write effectively. Talk about power-verbs and avoiding adjectives and adverbs to pump up descriptions! Geez! The man is a genius. When I wrote to him, my first question was, “How on earth did you learn to write like this?” His answer: Nothing. Nada. He never wrote back. Seems that R.A. is keeping his secret safely locked up somewhere at NASA. Probably in the same vault clutching all the mysteries of the universe, like what the alien autopsies revealed and which planets have intelligent life.

Ironically, I just got word that Jay will be speaking with my new literary crush next weekend at the Alabama Book Festival!!! Guess Jay will have to liquor the guy up with pink drinks until he spills all his writing secrets (and, of course, everything he knows about aliens, too).

- Eve


Rita said...

Thanks for this awesome book recommendation! I can't resist looking it up now!


Jill Esbaum said...

It's odd that he didn't answer you at all. He's a super-friendly guy. Makes me wonder if he got your e-mail....

Vi said...

I read "Teach Me" last year, accidentally falling upon it at the local library. Instant fav, of course, and I too thought Nelson was a girl. I didn't think too much of the author until my chance I stumbled across his myspace earlier in February to find that he has a new book out: "Breathe My Name" which I now own and it is amazingly breathtaking, and I'm not just talking about the cover either.

I think you would actually like "Such a Pretty Girl" by Laura Wiess ( She's an amazing author, and she writes back. ;) Her newest book, "Leftovers" was a roller coaster ride. You should check her out. Definitely worth your time.

Have fun!

Disco Mermaids said...

I'm sure writers like R.A. receive so many fan emails, it's probably difficult to reply to all of them.

Or maybe he's read about my past literary crushes and got scared. Who knows?

Thank you, Vi, for the recommendations. I've never read Laura Wiess. But I will now. Leftovers? Hmm... interesting title.

Dying to read "Breathe My Name" as well. It sounds so intense!


Brenda Ferber said...

Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the recommendation! I think my daughter will love it, too.

Lisa McMann said...

I LOVED this book. I loved it, then I hated it and threw it at the wall, and then I loved it again. Unbelievable. This book put me through the wringer and I am eternally grateful.



Vi said...


Wow, you replied. Which is odd. Haha. And you're welcome for the recommendations. Yes, "Leftovers" is an interesting title, but once done reading it, you'll know why. Also, Laura wrote the story in first person narrative, which would include "I, me, myself", right? But the way she writes makes it feel like the conflicts are the readers', and not the protagonists'. It may sound confusing, but it's an awesome concept and writing technique. She pulls it off extremely well. And for her debut "Such a Pretty Girl"... the prose is so poetic.
I'm rambling. =]

And "Breathing My Name" IS intense. Read it in less than three hours. Couldn't put it down.
I know Nelson has a new book "Days of Little Texas" coming out from Knopf publishing house, but no info or synopsis on it. Hmm.


bmcdowell said...

You really nailed it on Teach Me! My students LOVE it (and Breathe My Name too) and I've used it in class as a model of beautiful, concise, compelling writing.

If you have time, check out our YA website at Jay awesomely agreed to do an interview for us (which will be posted soon) and there are reviews of Thirteen Reasons Why (another HUGE favorite),R.A. Nelson's books, and others. Nelson's, Asher's, and Chbosky's Perks of Being a Wallflower have turned dozens of reluctant readers at our school into avid page turners. Thanks, guys! Keep writing!

Disco Mermaids said...


It seems that R.A. Nelson DID immediately write me back to thank me for my message. However, his response was somehow lost in cyberspace, due to a glitch in his website's system.

So, today I was shocked to receive several emails from R.A. himself apologizing and thanking me and all kinds of other nice things.

What a kind and humble man! I always love it when extraordinary writers turn out to be sweet and generous people as well.

Thank you, R.A.!!


Christy Raedeke said...

I immediately went out to get TEACH ME and then read it straight through. Beautiful and disturbing without one false note. This guy is amazing! Thanks for the recommendation, Eve. Breathe My Name is next on my nightstand...

Kelly said...

I fully agree about Teach Me. I stumbled on it at the library and realized RA was already a friend on Myspace--so I just picked it up, feeling guilty for never reading his book. Wow! I was up so late that first night. Even more amazing that he's a man writing from inside Nine's head. Great review and love your blog!

a. fortis said...

Sounds interesting! I'll have to put this on my to-read list. Thanks!

Hillary said...

I love this book!

Patty P said...

Wow. What a glowing review. I'm going out today to buy it!