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Meet Rachel McIntyre: Author of Me and Mr J.
Thu 2 June 2016, 14:00 – 15:00 BST
Rachel McIntyre: Me and Mr J
‘An intense but brilliant read’ The Guardian
Rachel McIntyre introduces Me and Mr J
As an author of Young Adult fiction, it’s tempting to steer clear of provocative topics but I think that underestimates our readership. Within the pages of a novel, a reader can encounter dangerous, challenging situations and consider potential resolutions…before closing the book and returning to the safety of their own home.
The protagonist Lara should be an easily identifiable one for teenage readers. Fifteen years old, her life is rapidly unravelling, the recession having hit her parents hard. The business, the house, the savings…they’re all gone, leaving only stress and arguments. School isn’t much better: no matter how hard she tries to fly under the radar, certain girls in her class won’t let her get away. Casual verbal cruelty escalates into violence until a sustained campaign of bullying starts. These girls are seriously relentless. And the worst part? Lara’s mum works for Queen Bully Molly’s parents: if she speaks out, she’ll jeopardise her family’s only source of income.
Enter Mr Jagger, the new supply teacher.
Writing about teacher/pupil relationships is an incredibly difficult task and as the story is told solely from Lara’s perspective, it’s an uncomfortable read at times. At first, Lara spends time with him because his classroom represents a refuge from the bullying. But soon, she realises she’s falling for him…and he seems to feel the same way.
The reader knows it’s wrong, but at the same time, we empathise with the perfect storm of circumstance that leads Lara into making a string of unwise decisions.
Mr Jagger was a challenge to write as presenting him as a creepy predator would have made for a very different story. Lara is an intelligent girl: if he were an obvious sleaze, she would have seen straight through him. However, she is clearly a vulnerable girl and, as a teacher, he is fully aware he is breaking the law by getting involved with her.
Me & Mr J could be interpreted as a controversial book because the mistakes Lara makes are so shocking. Ultimately, however, the narrative is about her journey to understanding that just because something feels right, doesn’t mean that it always is.
About the author
Rachel McIntyre grew up in Wakefield in West Yorkshire and now lives with her partner and son in Cheshire. She has worked as an English teacher in New York, Spain and the UK, most recently teaching English Literature in a sixth-form college in Huddersfield. Rachel now writes full-time and teaches creative writing evening classes to adults.
Rachel lived in Spain for almost ten years and during that time worked as a freelance features writer for numerous travel magazines and as a monthly contributor for a variety of in-flight magazines, including EasyJet and Virgin.
In 2013, Rachel was offered a three-book deal with Egmont Publishing and with a number of international publishers. Her first book, Me and Mr J, was published in February 2015 and her second, #1 Rule for Girls, is due for publication in February 2016. All Rachel’s books are YA contemporary and set in the north of England.