So I’ve finished my first read of 2020, which was taken from the very top of my TBR pile (Hurrah!). Look at me cracking on with my New Year’s resolutions!
I wrote on my last blog post that I only had 13 new books and then many a second hand book to read. Turns out I was wrong… very wrong. Later as I wandered upstairs to my bedroom I found 3 more new books that I had forgotten about. BAD BOOK BLOGGER. Oh dear. Now I can see why my Boyfriend lets out a nervous laugh when I tell him I’ve bought more new books. (Oops!)
So the book that I’ve been reading is one that I picked up at the wonderful discount book and stationary store, ‘The Works’ (UK). It’s honestly one of my guilty pleasures..I always say ‘I’ll just pop in but won’t buy anything…’ but 10 minutes later I’m usually walking back out with a book.. or 4.
But when there’s books to be discovered for £2 a book, you can’t just leave them there… right?
INDECENT, BY CORINNE SULLIVAN
Imogene Abney is a teaching assistant in her early twenties at an elite boarding school, Vandenberg School for Boys. She has just begun the semester and is living on the site with the other teaching assistants. The story begins so intriguingly, dropping in lines about laughing with ‘Kip’ or telling ‘Kip’ about events that happen in the early days of her position, such as accidentally walking in on a masturbating student..so as the reader we all begin to get hooked in and wonder who ‘Kip’ is because we’re not yet introduced to this character formally. Is it a boyfriend, a friend, or something else?
What immediately concerned me about Imogene was her desperate obsession with appearance and with fitting in and being wanted. She clearly is uncomfortable in her own skin, has never felt like part of a group that she truly belonged to and instead longs for a life that is not her own.
Imogene had really wanted to teach at Vandenberg when she had seen the prospectus, but not necessarily because it was an Elite School with an excellent standard of education. No, what attracted Imogene to teach at Vandenberg was the images of smartly dressed teenage boys from affluent backgrounds who all looked so polished, so at ease with themselves; confident, assured.
Imogene craves acceptance, in every walk of life. At home, in the classroom, within the group in which she shares the accommodation at school. She is seeking the approval of the boys she teaches, at the expense of any level of professionalism. For example, she crouches to secretly watch the boys play and sneak alcohol whilst on a school field and then joins in with the game once she is spotted – rather than addressing the drinking situation as the adult in authority should have done, because she wanted to seem ‘cool’.
Imogene doesn’t feel ‘good enough’ to do most things it would seem.. she doesn’t feel assured of her abilities in the classroom, within her family or for the women she lives with on site. Chapin in particular is a cool colourful character to which Imogene has an immediate girl crush, but doesn’t feel confident enough to approach. Imogene states that she wishes that she was more like her own sister Joni for ‘She never seemed afraid to take risks’.
Which is damn right crazy when we consider that for the next few months, Imogene then risks her reputation, her career and her future..for a casual fling with a 17 year old boy.
Firstly, I really thought that the idea was an interesting one.. in this story the teacher is pursued by the student.. a confident, wealthy and assured teenage boy. Secondly, the teacher has some major growing up to do. She may be mature in terms of age, but her mind is very much that of a young teenage girl. She becomes obsessed with people very quickly and imagines things to be in ways that are at parallels with reality. I cannot even trust that the story we are told from her perspective is true. For there are moments to which Imogene refers to a high school friend as an ‘ex’ when all he had ever really done was winked at her and whispered sweet nothings.. and she fully believed herself to be in a committed relationship with someone in her late teens, when the reality was much much more casual.
Imogene does not learn from her past experiences and again becomes far too attached.. risking everything because she believes that she is in love and in a relationship. To start out with, the story is rather exciting.. we’re wondering as a reader as to where this may lead. There is a chase that we know is wrong but interested to see just how far it goes. However.. to the reader it very quickly becomes apparent that the situation is a very casual affair.. a late night bootycall if you will. But Imogene is OBSESSED and completely of the belief that she is in love and worse..that it is reciprocated.
She spends much of the latter half of the story getting more and more engrossed.. spending her time away from the classroom and instead stalking her love interest. She spends most of her time crying and obsessing over every little detail, behaving in an over attached manner and creating disillusioned imaginary stories in her mind about what might or is going to happen.
As a reader, we wait for it all to come tumbling down around her.
I thought that the plot was a really controversial one but as inappropriate relationships between female teachers and male students has become more well known in the media over recent years (sadly) – then how interesting to read a novel from the insight of the predator.. who feels as though she is the one being preyed upon.
I did think that the character development of Imogene and Kip was well written, but unfortunately not all of the book was well written or proof read. I noticed for example that a ‘big deal’ throughout the book had a HUGE error in it.. they were supposed to count a number of students on the bus and they got one wrong.. yet in the next paragraph the number on the bus was 10 more students! A simple issue but as the reader of course we notice these types of ‘writing quality’ issues!
Also the way that other characters behaved around Imogene was far too forgiving and accepting. All men in the story appeared to be attracted to her in some way and all girls (no matter how catty she felt them to be) seemed to be kind enough to her even when she was behaving strangely. For the character Imogene is described as and a certain self destructive physical habit she does to her face, I cannot believe this to be true. She would at least receive the cold shoulder from at least one of the girls she lives with for her behaviour and she would receive some sort of immature comment or ridicule from the boys in the school about her face, but they do not mention it once. Further, her teacher who is obviously used to working with female assistants (because Raj is the only male in a very long time) can’t possibly work with her because it’s too distracting?
It was this lack of character depth or realism in other characters and in the situation around her that made the tale somewhat unbelievable. For example – Joni, Imogene’s sister, seemed to behave the coldest to Imogene, but there was never really any explanation as to why. There was certainly something missing, I’m not sure if it was poor over-editing or poor development.
The ending of the story was to be expected, but not in the way it occurred; I felt that it could have been SO MUCH MORE DRAMATIC! I felt like Sullivan seriously missed an opportunity. It felt rushed.
CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 4.5/5
I read this book quickly and intently because I was so drawn in to what kind of catastrophe Imogene was going to create for herself and how the whole saga would erupt at the end of the story.
However I did struggle with the pacing and some of the story telling; I felt that there was way too much mediocre sex described, uninteresting scenes in ‘The City’ with Chapin that ended nowhere with no explanation really as to why or what they were out to achieve and that we spent way too much time as readers following around Imogene running to Kip’s room or her successfully using her seemingly ‘injured and innocent doe’ charm on the responsible men who should have been more firm. It just didn’t tend to ring true.
I’d certainly recommend reading if you are looking for a change in genre to the normal murder, fantasy romance or chick lit stories that tend to over populate our shelves – it was a convincing enough plotline to imagine that it could genuinely happen or even be happening right now.
But in terms of writing quality and character development, it certainly has some way to go to be one of the ‘must reads’.
WASHED DOWN WITH:
Twinings Ginger Tea (20 bags) £1.25
Punchy, peppery, warming, helps with a cold and settles a full tummy. It’s cold, its winter and I’ve had the sniffles! This tea was a perfect accompaniment to the weather but also to the fiery character of Chapin in the story.
And now I move on to my next read, ‘Everything I never told you’ by Celeste Ng. I’ll check back in with you soon!
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Thank you! Until the next chapter,