Publisher: Legend Press
Publication date: 1st September 2016
The Art Teacher is a portrayal of a blemished world where desperate youths are top of a dangerous food chain and the authorities are slowly losing their minds. Take every streetwise retort and sideways glare fuelled by troubled teenage tribes and simply accept that despite possessing a teaching degree, immense life experience, and your best efforts, you haven’t got a hope in hell of influencing their poor life choices.
An inoffensive Art Teacher wouldn’t normally orbit the infamous Braddock estate except he teaches the majority of the local kids who live at this unfortunate post code, infamous for its recruitment of youths into one of the territorial gangs – little did he know their worlds would soon collide.
Patrick might be paid to turn up every day and educate them on how to throw a pot to the best of their abilities and decorate it afterwards, but ironically all their interest lay in similar pursuits such as hurling clay bricks and daubing senseless graffiti tags all over the neighbourhood.
Yes, the cunning kids featured in The Art Teacher would seamlessly blend into a heckling pack of hyenas circling its prey. Their complacency in the classroom originates from dark, unpredictable motives and that’s the liberally greased slippery slope right there, as any problem behaviour is given a wide birth and their unbridled distain for authority is relatively unchallenged for fear of reprisal.
That is, until Patrick’s dignity is teetering on the verge of non-existent and he confronts one of his more troublesome students. The subject that day was Denis, self-appointed spawn of the devil by nature of his unruly actions. He uses the scar from his hair lip to his advantage to strike a menacing pose before he grunts something obnoxious at Patrick; wearing that scowl like a badge of honour he tallies invisible medals from the dishonourable deeds he’s been engaged in.
It was truly awful to witness Patrick’s downward spiral into oblivion as his spontaneous challenge only resulted in a larger target being placed on his back. While escape from the battle cries of the anonymous students who elected themselves judge and jury is nigh on impossible, retaliation festers behind their smirking jaws but it’s nothing like he (or I as a reader) could ever imagine.
On the flip side of the coin, in a place where hope isn’t snuffed out, Patrick attempts to side step the bad eggs to help one of his students pleading help. Frequent visits to the grim Braddock estate opens his eyes, yet naivety will be his downfall as he’s outsmarted at every turn. This brooding plot aims to turn Patrick into a social pariah, and the intimidation and taunting he suffers attracts the interest of the local police to his door when they are drafted in to investigate a major incident on the estate which will alter the course of his life forever.
The Art Teacher excelled beyond anything I was expecting. The steady and continual layering is most excellently done until the tension is as snap-worthy as Patrick’s patience threshold. There’s a razor sharp observation of everything that has been damaged sociologically within the blink of a generation. Despite the oppressive air of despondency smothering them all the writing is fresh, engaging, and slices through contemporary issues with ease.
Rating: A HIGHLY RECOMMENDED 5/5
(I received a copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review, with my sincere thanks.)
(Courtesy of Amazon UK)
‘This is a superb debut… gritty, disturbing and pacy. It opens with thrilling intensity and never lets up.’ — Alex Lake, author of After Anna
Patrick Owen managed seven years at Highfields Secondary School without punching a pupil in the face.
Unknowingly drawn into a war against his own pupils, Patrick’s patience finally snaps as he finds himself the number one target with the boy the school just can’t seem to expel.
When one of his Art students needs his help, she unwittingly pulls Patrick further into the line of fire, altering their lives forever.
With the media circling and rumours of his involvement reaching new highs, Patrick must escape the world he lives in, or face the consequences.
(Courtesy of Goodreads. Photograph with permission of Legend Press.)
After gaining a first in Fine Art at the Kent Institute of Art and Design at Canterbury, Paul Read moved to London, finding employment at Foyles bookshop before becoming a teacher. He has worked in several inner-city schools as an Art, English and supply teacher, both in England and Italy. He received a distinction from City University London for his creative writing MA.
A few years ago, Paul was involved in a hit-and-run incident which put him in a wheelchair for several months and was where he wrote the first draft of The Art Teacher. He lives with Patricia and their two children.