By Amanda Grace
Published on September 8th 2013
Published by Flux
Published by Flux
Smart girls aren't supposed to do stupid things.
Madelyn Hawkins is super smart. At sixteen, she's so gifted that she can attend college through a special program at her high school. On her first day, she meets Bennett. He's cute, funny, and kind. He understands Madelyn and what she's endured - and missed out on - in order to excel academically and please her parents. Now, for the first time in her life, she's falling in love.
There's only one problem. Bennett is Madelyn's college professor, and he thinks she's eighteen - because she hasn't told him the truth.
The story of their forbidden romance is told in letters that Madelyn writes to Bennett - both a heart-searing ode to their ill-fated love and an apology.
I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley. I chose it because, from the description, it seemed to take on a taboo subject with sensitivity. As a writer myself, I also wanted to see if, and how, the author could successfully pull it off.
Since the novel is written in letters from Maddie to Bennett, I found it hard to get to know Maddie as a character. The reader spends a lot of time in her brain—which flitters between thoughts of Bennett and trying to keep up with school work—but gets very little indication of her other interests and hobbies. Perhaps that’s because Maddie has no interests and hobbies beyond trying to keep up with her parents’ high demands to excel in college at age sixteen. Still, I think it would have been helpful to have had a better grasp on who Maddie was before meeting Bennett. It may have made her more relatable to me as a reader.
That said, I did relate to Maddie in one aspect: her crush on a teacher. I could even understand her infatuation with him, her daydreams, and even some of her over-the-top mushy descriptions of things like his hair and his eyes. She was very much a typical school girl with a crush on her teacher. However, at points, ironically when she was trying hard to convince others that Bennett did not know her age and was not a creep, she ended up sounding like the creepy one, almost stalkerish.
I have mixed feelings now that I have finished this novel. On one hand, I could relate to Maddie’s infatuation, and I almost wished I could root for Maddie and Bennett as a couple because, through her eyes, everything was so beautiful and pure. On the other hand, Maddie was a smart girl, but she acted extremely irresponsibly when she decided not to tell Bennett her real age, so I had a hard time feeling bad for her when everything unraveled. (This, by the way, is not a spoiler. The reader knows from page one that the relationship doesn’t last, so the novel becomes a long apology with flashbacks to key moments in their relationship.) The one element that was missing for me was the why. Maddie felt pressure from her parents to do well in college and get a good job, but that didn’t seem to justify her rebellion through a relationship with her teacher.
Overall, I thought some elements of the story were far-fetched (like, did she not look like she was younger than eighteen?), but I found myself wanting the best for Maddie throughout. The ending was very emotional and uplifting, and I may have even shed a few tears!