Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Kate Walbert’s HIS FAVORITES: An English Teacher & His "Favorite" Students


Here’s Amazon’s description of Kate Walbert’s His Favorites:

[...] a searing and timely novel about a teenaged girl, a charismatic teacher, and a dark, open secret.

They were on a lark, three teenage girls speeding across the greens at night on a “borrowed” golf cart, drunk. The cart crashes and one of the girls lands violently in the rough, killed instantly. The driver, Jo [Hadley], flees the hometown that has turned against her and enrolls at a prestigious [Hawthorne] boarding school [in New England]. 

In the novella, the “cool”, “handsome” and “charming” 34-year-old Master Aikens, who was a Fulbright scholar, the varsity squash coach, and the Modern Lit seminar teacher, “[...] liked a nice view in his classroom, above and below the neck.”

Jo spotted Master at Depot, a diner, with Charlotte P. who is described as: “[...]  a senior, the daughter of a model and a famous actor and a girl you could not miss--her hair was almost white, straight and long to her waist” with “gray-blue” eyes.

After breakfast, Charlotte P. and her English teacher: “[...] held hands [...] and they both leaned forward, her knee touching his [...]”

(As an aside, Jo shared that Mr. J used to drive her home after babysitting his twins. During the ride, Mr. J would “paw” her and reach for a kiss.)

Before he left the diner in “a faded Princeton T-shirt and a khaki hunting jacket”, Master encouraged Jo, a sophomore, to apply for the upperclassmen Modern Lit seminar. 

Unsurprisingly, Jo was accepted into the seminar where Master would wink at her, which caused her heart to soar and flap around the classroom. 

During Jo’s first visit to Master’s office/apartment, which had “[...] stacks of books, a scuffed floor;  [and] fissured walls [...]”, he “laced” his fingers between hers and after telling her to close her eyes, he leaned in and “stroked” her face.

Master would send letters to Jo’s dorm room. She shared that certain girls knew about Master’s letters. Those girls: “[...] had internships for fashion magazines or museums or publishers or weren’t working at all, just reading thick books and having sex with the boys returned from their boarding schools, or those boys’ older brothers, or uncles, or even, and this is true, fathers.”

Jo was moved to a ground-floor single after another student left school abruptly. Master climbed through the casement window, crawled on his hands and knees to Jo’s bed that was peppered with stuffed animals, and he pulled her down and kissed her “forcefully”. 

After Master told Jo that he, “[...] likes to get to know his favorites [...], he slipped Jo’s peasant blouse over her shoulders and shimmied her jeans past her hips, before they made love for the first time on the mattress in his office/apartment. 

Subsequently, in his green Alfa Romeo, Master forced 15-year-old Jo to give him a hand-job before he “came” in her hair and on her face.

Uncharacteristically for someone sexually abused, Jo told Lucy, a classmate, and O’Connell, the headmaster, about Master, but O’Connell informed Jo that her accusations were “complicated” by her attire: “[...] a dress with bare shoulders and no brassiere.” 

Characteristically of prep and boarding schools, along with a number of other teachers who were accused of inappropriate behavior with coeds (e.g., a stolen kiss, an inappropriate innuendo), Jo’s accusations were dismissed. 

Eventually, Master retired early and returned to Madrid after he was honored by The Hawthorne School at an awards ceremony.


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