When Ben Jagger turns up at Lara’s school as the maternity cover for her form/English teacher, Lara soon develops a schoolgirl crush on him, although she knows it’s just an enjoyable fantasy. He’s a welcome distraction from the rest of her truly grim life – not only is she being very badly bullied, but her parents are in dire financial straits which is taking a toll on their marriage. But then Mr J starts to show Lara some real attention and kindness. As Lara’s feelings for Mr J deepen, she dares to hope they’re reciprocated, and manages to convince herself that it would not be wrong if they did have a relationship.
Told through Lara’s diary entries, the book spans from January to July of her GCSE year. Lara comes across as a very appealing person, trying to make the best of things and keeping her sense of humour in the face of adversity; even so, her descriptions of the bullying made for some particularly harrowing reading. Mr J also comes across as likeable, genuinely wanting to help a schoolgirl in trouble. Rachel McIntyre’s debut novel covers some difficult issues in a gripping, thought-provoking, and entertaining way.