This book took me by surprise. I didn’t expect to care so much about the characters, and had to pace myself so I’d be in the right headspace to keep listening. Teacher/student stories often make me uncomfortable because of the power imbalance, mostly. I’ve wanted to read this book for a while but both that worry and the mixed reviews kept me away. Let’s be clear : I was wrong. The relationship between Kat and Freya is handled with intelligence and sensitivity.
Katherine Spicer is enjoying her last evening out as a student before starting her career as a teacher in a couple of days. She meets Freya and soon kisses her. Freya disappears and when she next sees her, the whole game has changed : the younger woman is one of her students.
Freya is trying to come to terms with the idea that she might be a lesbian. Her first kiss with a woman has exceeded all expectations and finding out a few days later that the woman she can’t get out her mind is her new history teacher crushes her. But Kat takes her job and responsibilities very seriously, despite the undeniable feelings growing between them. Then Freya’s friend Bea confesses her love for her.
More than a teacher / student story, But She Is My Student is about doing the right thing and holding on to your principles. The age gap is minimal (Freya turns eighteen at the start of the book and Katherine is twenty-two, I think), both women share the same interests, so the only thing preventing them from being together is the teacher / student relationship. Which makes for great angst, obviously.
I thought Kiki Archer did a great job on Freya’s struggle with her identity, labels, desires and all that. In some of the reviews I read, the reviewers complained about how Freya uses Bea when she’s obviously in love with Kat. Yeah well, Freya’s eighteen, she’s in love with someone whith whom a relationship seems utterly impossible and there’s this beautiful, smart and sweet girl who obviously wants her and to whom she’s kinda attracted too. I’m not expecting teenagers and yound adults to act in mature ways in real life, so why would I expect it from them in fiction? I know 40-year-olds who are way less mature about love and all than Freya. And also, I liked Bea a lot less by the end of the story.
The other thing I liked but others didn’t is how important Kat’s best friends and roommates are to the story. They take a lot of space and I can see how some readers might not be that interested in what’s happening in their lives. I guess I could have done without knowing so much about Lucy’s boyfriend’s manhood, yet it also makes them more real, more substantial. What they go through matters to Kat so it’s part of the story. It also doesn’t hurt that Lucy reminded me so much of Bubble from Absolutely Fabulous.
There’s a sequel to this story, which I hope I’ll find time to read soon, as I’m not totally ready to let go of Kat and Freya.