teacher's petAndrew Neiderman
Zebra Books
1986

Mr. Lucy was such a wonderful man.  He was just the kind of teacher the children of Ceterville needed.  Sharp, understanding, always ready to help out.  A man like that inspired respect in his students.  Why, they hung on his every word… You might say that Mr. Lucy had a gift.  A way of getting kids to do what he wanted.  It was really quite astonishing when the children brought home straight-A report cards.  All the parents were so proud.  It was even more astonishing to see how they began to resemble Mr. Lucy.  And act like Mr. Lucy.  And kill like Mr. Lucy…

Teacher’s Pet is one of those books that either I or someone else in the household at the time picked up back when it was first published.  Back in the 1980s, there was something of a horror fiction boom that resulted in several strictly mass-market paperback horror titles descending upon the book aisles of finer supermarkets across the country like Asian beetles upon…well, pretty much everything really.  Those things are everywhere.  Anyway, Teacher’s Pet was just another one of those titles that was purchased, forgotten about, and then revisited recently by my stumbling upon it mouldering away in the attic.  No time like the present to catch up, eh?

The name Andrew Neiderman wasn’t one I was overly familiar with, and after doing a bit of a background check on the author, I was surprised to learn a few things about the guy: His output has been rather prolific, several of them made into movies (including 1997’s Devil’s Advocate), and also ghost writes many posthumous V. C. Andrews books.  That, and he rocks a rather manly beard.  Impressive.

Teacher’s Pet, however…not as impressive.  The story is about a mysterious stranger who blows into a small town and begins his malevolent plan at sending the citizenry into chaos and anarchy by…tutoring the teenagers to become better achievers and make the most of their lives.  But, he is inspiring four of the kids to be manipulative douchenozzles…kind of, maybe.  Or, it could have just been an issue of some kids taking the whole “self-esteem” thing a bit too far.  And in the end, there was only one murder and a housewife driven mad…but then she got better.  Yeah, “Apt Pupil” this is not.

I hasten to use the word “hack” here, because, all said and done, Teacher’s Pet is still literary gold compared to the likes of Twilight.  Regardless, while the writing doesn’t needlessly complicate the story, the fact remains that the characterisation was poor and the dialog bordered on After School Special camp.  There were several ways that the story hinted at exploring possibilities to make it far more interesting, but does nothing to take full advantage of these.  And the end conflict resolution was so underwhelming I didn’t even bother with the uttering of my customary “meh”.

I would place Teacher’s Pet squarely on the same level as novels by John Saul; it served its purpose, had a beginning, a middle, and an end, and will probably be promptly forgotten about the moment I finish writing this review about it.  No big loss, really.

Advertisements