We’ve all been there: we’re out at a club with a few of our girlfriends when we spot a gorgeous woman across the room. We muster up the courage to go over and talk to her, but it’s not just talking that we have in mind. After a steamy makeout session, we turn around and the woman of our dreams has vanished. Usually, this is when we wake up and realize it was all a dream, but what happens when it becomes reality? Would we ever see her again? And what happens if that mystery woman shows back up – as a student? That’s exactly what Kat Spicer, a new teacher in a British preparatory school, asks herself in Kiki Archer’s novel But She Is My Student.
As the title alludes, Kat is horrified to discover that the beautiful woman she kissed at a nightclub is, in fact, one of her students. As a first-year teacher, Kat is terrified that someone will discover her secret, despite the fact that nothing happened between her and seventeen-year-old Freya beyond the liplock. Toss in Kat’s friends Lucy and Jess, a couple of nosy English teachers, and the curious students at Coldfield Comprehensive School, and you’re in for a wild ride that will have you laughing, crying, and wondering just what the heck people were thinking.
Kiki Archer does a wonderful job blending Kat’s nervousness, Freya’s fear of coming out, and the lives of Jess and Lucy into a terrific story of love, loss, and that inevitable crush on an impossible woman. Once I got past some of the British slang, I found that I couldn’t put down the book. But She Is My Student goes beyond the alluded subject to deal with some very hard-hitting issues: coming out, abusive relationships, family dynamics, and trust. Ms. Archer’s story, while unconventional in its storyline, focused more on the interactions and relationships between the characters than on the somewhat-taboo topic of teacher-student relationships.
The chemistry between Kat and Freya was immediate, but the true beauty of the story lies within the non-romantic bond these two women form. Kat becomes a mentor, a friend, and a confidante – all things that help her relate more to her students and build trusting relationships with the young people in her class. As an educator, it was this and not the relationship with Freya that stuck out to me. While the ending was unexpected, Kiki Archer’s dynamic characters and her realistic portrayal of the struggle between personal and professional boundaries made But She Is My Student a wonderful read.