From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up–Carolina is a high-school senior who feels she is too smart and mature for small-town Alabama life. Then she meets Mr. Mann, the new language arts teacher who is obsessed with Emily Dickinson. After she makes him feel at ease in his new job, she feels he is worthy of her attention, and the two begin an intense, clandestine affair, which is consummated on her 18th birthday. The love ends devastatingly for the teen when Mr. Mann suddenly dumps her and quickly marries another woman right before graduation. Carolina finally confides in her best friend, Schuyler, and he helps her try to figure out who Mr. Mann is and why he acted as he did. Nelson's writing is wonderfully eloquent and full of poetic references and wry humor, yet the plot and characters are occasionally chaotic. It is difficult to identify with Carolina, who not only thinks she's better than everyone else, but also goes to extreme lengths to seek revenge on her former lover. Mr. Mann is no more sympathetic. As his mystery unravels, readers discover, along with Carolina, how dull he is. Still, the story is juicy and cautionary without being preachy, which gives it wide teen appeal.–Jane Cronkhite, Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH
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Gr. 9-12. High-school senior Carolina (" Nine") is longing for something, and it appears in the form of her English teacher, Mr. Mann. They dance around each other, until Mr. Mann takes the first step in Nine's direction, and on her eighteenth birthday, they consummate their relationship. Several months later Mr. Mann abruptly ends it, refusing to give a reason. Nine's quest to find out why he has left her becomes manic, leading her to childish, unpredictable, almost dangerous behavior. Nelson treads new territory here, and she does some things remarkably for a first novelist. She eloquently captures both the yearning that comes with loving someone who doesn't seem attainable and the utter despair when the affair ends. The plotting, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired. There's no reason why Mr. Mann shouldn't reveal his reasons for suddenly marrying someone else, other than to push the action. Moreover, the melodramatic ending, which allows Mr. Mann to be a hero, rings false on several levels. However, teens--who often long for passion themselves--will recognize the fury of it in Nine's story. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved