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.
This is the story of a young girl so desperately trying to break the mold of her perfect life that her parents have designed for her that she ultimately ruins another’s life in order to feel different. Bennett makes her feel like an adult, like she has control of her life, and so she doesn’t tell him she’s 16, even though she knows she should, that their relationship is illegal, and that it could all come crashing down around her. But she’s selfish; not intentionally, but selfish she is, and in the end, the pieces shatter and she is left with nothing but a disappointed family–but she does break the mold.
Both Bennett and Madelyn were incredibly infuriating characters in this story, mainly because they didn’t think. The first thing I do when I meet someone I’m interested in is find out their age, and Bennett doesn’t do that. He never asks, even though he knows he shouldn’t be dating a student. He doesn’t verify that she’s 18, or ask around about her; instead, he throws himself into the relationship and, in this lack of thought, ends up ruining his own life. Asking someone to keep a secret this monumental means he knows what he’s doing is wrong. So he’s just as much to blame as anyone else.
Madelyn does stop to think that what she’s doing isn’t smart, but she continuously ignores the nagging feeling in the back of her mind and does whatever she wants to do. She doesn’t care who she hurts, and because of this, I have no respect for her. Yes, I understand she’s 16, irrational, and that her brain hasn’t fully formed, so she makes big mistakes, but this is calculating, and while she never means to being Bennett harm, that’s what she does because of her own selfish desires.
And her parents are just as much to blame as Bennett and Madelyn are. Their pressure and inability to really see their daughter was sickening. How does one not notice their child is suddenly dressing sexier and trying to be more mature and grown-up? She was 15 when she started community college–why force that on her? They didn’t know their own daughter, and I understand that the mother was absent a lot, and dad was all about making sure she succeeds in life, but what ever happened to allowing kids to be kids? Why force them to grow up so quickly? If you push her to be an adult all the time, when she’s not and doesn’t have all the experience and capabilities adults have, then you’re asking for trouble, in my opinion. And that’s what they got.
In the end, everyone is at fault in some way, shape, or form in this story. Everyone.
I liked the idea that this story is told through a series of letters Madelyn wants to send Bennett after it’s all said and done, so she leads up to the fateful morning her secret was discovered, but I really would have loved to have Bennett’s point of view in there, too. Overall, though, it’s a very well written story that will really make readers think, picking the characters apart and trying assess their cognitive abilities, or lack thereof. The characterization is superb; I just wish I liked them more. Three stars.
Flux Books has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its official release tomorrow, September 8, 2013.