Hope you’ve all had a good week and are enjoying the heatwave! It’s been a bit too hot in London – I hope it starts to get cooler soon! Keeping up with my theme of reading teacher x student books this year, Lessons in Love is a book I enjoyed during lockdown and will be sharing my thoughts today.
Alex Heron has more secrets than a cat has lives. Keeping up with the charade that’s her life is draining and her façade is cracking under the stress. She’s the American teen dream—blonde, blue-eyed and head cheerleader at her high school, but no one knows the real Alex…and she plans to keep it that way. The truth would make her an instant outcast. Enter Mark Simmons, the new math teacher. With a body to die for and a face that makes every girl swoon, Alex is no exception…until she realizes she opens up to him more than anyone else in her life. Even her best friend, Claire.
Mark knows his attraction to Alex is dangerous for both of them. He tries to tell himself he only wants to help her turn her grades and her life around. But the intense tutoring sessions only bring them closer. He can’t deny his feelings any more than Alex can. Though he hasn’t the strength to stop seeing Alex, he’s glad she does. They can only be teacher and student. No intimate dates. No long talks. No longing looks. And it’s killing him. But when she has the chance to go to Princeton, Mark realizes he must let her go…even if it breaks their hearts.
LESSONS IN LOVE is the touching story of two people who fall in love at the wrong time, in the wrong place, but make the ultimate sacrifice and do the right thing. If you miss this story, you’ll miss the read of a lifetime!
I have to start off this review by saying, WOW, this book is amazing! I really didn’t expect it to be so brilliant, and you can’t imagine how delighted I am that there is not one, but two, sequels!
In Lessons in Love, we are introduced to Alexandra (or Alex), a high school student who has recently moved to a new school. As we soon find out, Alex has had a traumatic past and is still trying to get to terms with it. Following a tragedy, Alex’s family lost everything and has to trade in their luxury lifestyle for something more simplistic. Alex is forced to move schools, and doesn’t tell anyone about her past in order to fit in. with her mother having to take on an extra job to afford just the basics, Alex has the responsibility of looking after her younger brother. This, combined with her position as Head Cheerleader, means that Alex is falling behind in class. Alex doesn’t seem to care much, thinking that there’s no chance of her going to college, since she’ll have to get a job to support her family, but then Mr Simmons (or Mark) comes along and Alex realises that it’s never too late to turn things around…
Given her traumatic past, Alex is an easy character to empathise with. While I wasn’t too keen on her at the beginning because she’s obsessed with being popular, and does lie quite a lot, I warmed up as the book progressed and she realises that there are much more important things in life than having a huge group of friends. Alex also wants to make her father proud: he wouldn’t have wanted to see his daughter throw her life away when she has so much potential. I really rooted for Alex to do well in school and get into Princeton, her dream college.
Clarissa Carlyle has done a good job at reflecting real life and the issues teenagers face. One of the major themes in Lessons in Love is bullying. After Alex quits cheerleading, the other kids are really horrible to her, especially Jeff and Sophie, who threatens to make it seem like Alex and Mr Simmons are in a relationship. It’s not too clear why, since Sophie was able to become the new captain of the cheerleading team, which is what she wanted, but maybe she was jealous that Alex and Mark were spending so much time together.
Unlike a lot of teacher x student novels, Lessons in Love has substance that makes it a really gripping read. Both Alex and Mark are aware of the consequences of anything happening between them, and don’t start anything romantic until Alex graduates. I liked how there were no explicit scenes or insta-love, which are very popular in books with this trope. Alex and Mark start off on the wrong foot (because he gave her a detention for talking back at him), but they soon spend a lot of time together. Mark starts tutoring Alex and they even meet outside of school a couple of times: for example, they go ice skating and to the cinema together. Alex finds Mark easy to open up to and confides in him about her family and living situation. Mark is understanding and is eager to help Alex get into college.
There are only a couple of issues I had with Lessons in Love. Firstly, I think there could have been more description about Mark so that I could understand why Alex was so drawn to him – although I do get that she doesn’t really care about how people look and finds Mark easier to talk to than her peers. In addition, Mark invites Alex to meet him outside of school, and while it’s strictly platonic, he should’ve known that it’s inappropriate and he could get in a lot of trouble if anyone caught them together.
I was pleasantly surprised by Lessons in Love and there’s no doubt that I’ll be reading the sequels. At the end of the book, Alex heads off to college and I was left wondering what would happen to her and Mark. Ultimately, Lessons in Love is a beautiful story about love, tragedy and healing. It may be marketed as a New Adult book, but teens will be able to connect with Alex, especially those who feel like they have to pretend to be something they’re not in order to make friends.
What book are you reading at the moment? Are there any particular book tropes you’re drawn to? Let me know in the comments!