Cover Image: Being Lolita

Being Lolita

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Member Reviews

This  book is a memoir and it introduces us to the author, Alisson, and her abusive relationship with her high school English teacher. Alisson explains her “love story” and how she it correlated to the book Lolita, only to find as she got older that the relationship wasn’t love at all. It was very controlling, abusive, and honestly super sad.

Alisson struggled and was a loaner. She was introduced to Mr. North who seems to understand exactly what she’s going through. He takes her under his wing and nurtures her talents and aspirations. In his classroom, she finally feels seen. And then one day, he reads to her from a copy of “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov and nothing is ever the same again.

Through out high school and her freshman year of college she is groomed and manipulated. It is a sad story but Alisson does break away and move forward. It was a very well written  book.
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Memoirs can be so powerful, I particularly liked how the author used her reading of 'Lolita'. as a touch point throughout the book.
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The book follows a 'romance' between a high school student and her English teacher. It reads like a novel, but is very much a memoir. Alisson is seduced by her teacher while he is supposed to be helping her with her writing. As their relationship inappropriately grows throughout high school and her freshman year at college, she starts to realize that he is just manipulating her. This is an amazingly powerful story that I'm so thankful that Alisson shared with the world.

Thank You to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for this free digital e-galley.
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Thankyou to the author, Alisson Wood, Flatiron books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


Being Lolita is a yet another heart wrenching memoir by the debut author Alisson Wood. Its an honest and raw depiction of the dark romance between her as a high schooler and her English teacher who leverages the famous Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita to manipulate an adolescent girl under the false pretense of mentoring her as a writer but ends up abusing her so deludedly that it takes her years to realize that she was being victimized all along.

The story is told in three different parts. Part one is named Nymph and rightly so which gives us the foundation of where and how this whole forbidden love starts and how slowly but surely the teacher ever so skillfully uses her adolescence to his favor. He keeps her under his thumb and she blissfully mistakes it for true love and dreams of her future with him. The second part is named Capture where we actually get to see the problematic and inappropriate relationship unravel and how she is time and again threatened to keep this affair under wraps. The final and last chapter called Dissection is where Allison has this gradual realization and understanding of the abuse she has been subjected to and how she uses the same Lolita that her English teacher used to hide his true mean self behind the mask of true love to understand what went wrong and how she had  misinterpreted the story all along. It strikes her that the only difference between Lolita and her is that she  had actually lived out the story in real life to tell it to the world unlike her fictional twin who dies. This book was quite literary with so many classics referenced that might be a delight for booknerds. But also how if you have not read all of them you might overlook the parallels Allison had tried to draw. 
The predator here uses Lolita to make her believe that the whole pedophile inspired inappropriate lust of 
Humbert was the highest form of romance to ever exist.

My favorite part was when after she has this epiphany of the toxic relationship she's in, then goes into this  deep literary analysis of the same book that was used to seduce her in the first place and works her way to find what exactly did she misread/overlook in this narration. She understands how she has been the unreliable narrator of her life and uses her life experiences to show the real meaning and truth in that book as well as other literatures in general to her students to help them not be yet another victim like her.

This memoir is a must read since stories as this deserved to be told and heard for hundreds and thousands of women who might draw inspiration one day to say NO to such men who abuse their power. I highly commend the author for her bravery and strength.
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A special thank you to the author, Alisson Wood, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

As a 17-year-old senior, Alisson Wood is a bit of a loner who takes solace in writing. Alisson is getting extra help outside of class from Mr. North, a 27-year-old English teacher. Mr. North is constantly praising her writing, calling her special and gifted. Alisson is flourishing under his attention.

"Have you ever read Lolita?" 

Mr. North gives Alisson a copy and tells her to read it, citing it as a beautiful love story. The book soon becomes the mirror to their relationship—it started as a crush and blossomed into a forbidden and scandalous romance, one that is only rivalled by Nabokov's masterpiece.

As Mr. North's hold on her tightens and the relationship becomes abusive, Alisson must take back her power and the pen, and rewrite her own narrative. 

Being Lolita is a stunning piece of work. It is a study of Lolita itself, that is unfortunately at the expense of a young girl. A girl that should've been nurtured and protected, but instead became exploited and a victim of abuse. This is nothing new—men in positions of power that prey on women who have been taught that they should welcome the attention of a man, no matter in what form. 

This coming-of-age memoir is powerful, gripping, and consuming. It is an unflinching look into an extreme abuse of power and consent. Alisson Wood is brave, she is a survivor who by telling her story, takes back her power. And while this book isn't anything new or fresh, Wood's writing was truly remarkable and inspiring.
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This memoir is not a light or easy read for everyone. It’s about the author’s grooming & then abusive relationship with her high school English teacher who is obsessed with “Lolita.” I understand how hard it was for her to share her story & I genuinely felt compassion for the author but the writing wasn’t consistent throughout. There was some parts that were beautifully written & others where it felt lacking, like the rushed ending. 
Thank you to Netgalley & Flatiron Books for the digital ARC!
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Alisson Wood's memoir was an emotionally taxing read, to say the least. Her honesty about the abusive relationship that she had with her teacher and her own mental health struggles left me speechless. I can only imagine how difficult this memoir was for her to write. Sexually groomed by her senior year English teacher, Wood recalls how he introduced her to Nabokov's book Lolita and used the story to justify their relationship. There are many references to the modern classic in this book and I am glad I took the time to read it before tackling this memoir (even if I did not enjoy it). Wood shares her story of abuse in hopes that other teenagers do not experience the same horrors she did.
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Wow! This was excellent. It was so readable and I probably could have finished it in one sitting if I didn’t have a job and school and other responsibilities. This book was so thought provoking and honest. I really loved this.
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In depth account with literary ties. Thank you to the author for being willing to share her story with us. While obviously a dark topic, the book was easy to get sucked in to. I appreciated the way the author shared the things she was starting to realize and learn throughout the course of her relationship with the teacher. Great descriptions of the scenery / environment.
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Have I read Lolita? No. Have I read Edgar Allan Poe's poem Annabel Lee? Also, no. Will I still give you my take on Alisson Wood's memoir Being Lolita, upon which said works I have not read mentions? Absolutely! ⁣
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If you take nothing from this book, at the very least I hope you understand how complex sexuality, love, youth, and relationship can be when viewed from the lens of both the abused and the abuser. In this book, Wood discusses a forbidden "romance" with a high school student and her English teacher that leads to a dark and abusive relationship, which leaves lasting scars on a young woman. ⁣
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You know how in television shows when the actor removes the fourth wall and talks to the viewer? Well, Woods utilizes the same technique as she details her life as a seventeen-year old girl, struggling with depression, insomnia, and self harm. Her high school life is forever changed when she is taken under the wing of a young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. North. ⁣
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I think the most interesting part of this memoir, was the reflection that Wood has looking back as she pieces together memories, mementos, and the like from her time with Mr. North. She explores the ideas of consent, vulnerability, power, and literature in a way that truly had me thinking about how easily such things can be manipulated. ⁣
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If you are looking for an insightful account on the interplay of love, sex, vulnerability, and the like, I would definitely recommend this book.⁣Lastly, I would like to thank Alisson Wood for sharing her story. I hope that I have done this review justice.
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This book is a raw and honest look at how a male teacher abuses his young, female student. As a mother, it was difficult at times to read, but it was also inspiring to se Alisson Wood find her voice in spite of all that happened. It is a brave story and one that is told in a way that you won't soon forget. I read this in one sitting.

Thank you to Flatiron books for the ARC!
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This book reminded me of the powerful “My Dark Vanessa” but even more groundbreaking because its true. Alisson Wood’s memoir is moving. Alisson is a teenager struggling with depression and insecurity. Things I’m sure many people can relate to. Instead of being supported, she was often judged and ridiculed by her peers for it (MENTAL HEALTH IS IMPORTANT EVERYONE)! That is until Mr. North came along. He preyed on her vulnerability and because she was a lonely teenager, she didn’t know any better. 
He was the young, smart, charming (and manipulative) teacher. All she knew was that for once in her life someone was making her feel good, instead of bad. Things escalated quickly here, and it didn’t take long for the teacher to really start creeping us out. She referred to him as her “prince”, her “knight in shining armor” but he was far from it. 
Now self-aware Alisson recognizes all of this. I loved watching her grow and the way she broke up the short chapters by speaking directly to the reader telling us what she sees now. His controlling tendencies and manipulation blinded her for many years. The raw emotion and personal detail in which she writes about her past is applaudable and brave. It’s a story about story of growth, strength and resilience. And it’s not just a story- it’s her life. I highly recommend this book no matter how hard some of the content may be to process! It’s important, especially for those who may have been in a dark or abusive relationship.
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Alisson, thank you sending me a copy of your book, chatting with me, & most importantly, sharing your experience with the world so others like me will see your strength & know we are not alone, and we are NOT to blame. ❤️

Alisson’s story is raw & beautifully written. It’s powerful & brave, and it’s hers. As a victim, I can tell you it is essential. Read it. Think about how many women you know who have likely lived a similar experience. We exist, & our stories matter.

I will not sit here & say it’s easy to read books about traumatic experiences so similar to my own, or that this practice will work for everyone, because it’s not, and it won’t. But for me, it has been the greatest catalyst for healing. Reading about Maggie’s story in Three Women turned my world upside down and shook me to my core: I was not alone, nor was my experience unique. Reading My Dark Vanessa unlocked another layer of healing, one that inspired & empowered me to share some of my story with all of you. Being Lolita, the first memoir I’ve read about a student/teacher relationship, was everything to me. The similarities, again, shocked me to my core.

The same manipulative lines my own teacher spoke to me are here, within the pages of her story. All the ways he made me feel special, in control, while keeping me isolated & alone. The enormous weight of the secrets & lies. The victim blaming & lack of response from the people who were supposed to protect us...it’s all here. We were manipulated, & we were preyed upon. That is the common thread. And the more I read & listen to similar stories, the more I loosen my grip on the shame & blame I’ve carried for over a decade. The more I see him for what he was: a predator.

It is not easy to shift your personal narrative from “someone special” to “victim,” & Alisson beautifully expresses that confusing & devastating realization over and over. Even when you see it, what does it mean, and how do you move on? I’m still figuring that out.

And here’s the ugly truth: I told my story, I gave my journals to detectives, & all he got was a note in his file. He’s still allowed to teach, & it makes me sick. When will we start listening to victims & caring more about their trauma than the perpetrators reputation / “potential”? 

Believe victims. 
Read Alisson’s story. 
It matters.
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I was an impressionable youth. I had few dates of any significance, but I had a lot of crushes. Most of my adolescent crushes were directed at people in the upper grades at school, some towards my teachers. We’ve all been there, we’ve all had teenage crushes on the new teacher fresh out of college. I’ll go with that line of reasoning and try not to remember that my biggest crush was on my 40-year-old French teacher. In Being Lolita: A Memoir, Allison Woods looks back through adult eyes on a relationship she had with her high school teacher, both before and after high school graduation. Yes, we’ve all had that adolescent crush, but fortunately, most of us had responsible teachers where Wood had a predator.

The narrative begins uneasily, with less reminiscence and more fly-on-the-wall storytelling. Wood encounters the teacher at a vulnerable time in her life, he encourages her creative side, he sees her when she feels unseen. He pays attention to who she is, where others simply see her outer shell.

“I knew I got cast because of him, because he vouched for me, he put himself on the line for me. It seemed like no one had done anything like that for me in a long time, it was like my prince had come.”

This is how it feels to her, and as she moves through her final year of high school, the teacher guides her and shapes her, through the lens of his own narrative, and through that of Nabakov’s Lolita. It is a highly unsettling read, and for a while seems like it is going to romanticize the grooming process. Even when he passes her a note concerning his genitalia. However, as the “relationship” transitions to the physical, as Wood leaves for college and starts to live her own life, the introspection gains more realism and less youthful fantasy. You begin to see how Wood has been leading you through her young eyes, to understand how a girl can reconstruct what is happening to her even as it is happening. As she becomes an adult, the language changes, the nuance changes, and the descriptions of him become less favorable as she begins to recognize what is happening to her.

The teacher introduces Lolita to Wood as one of the great romances, idolizing Humbert as a heroic romantic figure, and Lolita as an ingenue. So when a female professor reintroduces Wood to Lolita in later years, it’s like a smack in the face, and the house of cards comes falling down. By the end of the book, she even wonders if she has over-imagined parts of her story to try and make the memory of it “less tawdry.” The teacher had used Lolita to romanticize what was happening, and she can’t quite let go of the conditioning of this, it runs deep. So that even as an adult, she can’t shake the feeling that makes her wonder if she did actually seduce him. When she starts to do a deep dive into some of the imagery he used, god bless the English major, some of the poetry and the biography of various authors, the butterfly obsession of Nabokov’s in particular, she gains a deeper understanding of how pinned down she was and knows for the first time that he was the one with all the power.

Wood is not simplistic in her transition from troubled teen to groomed youth to woke adult. Aside from a moment with Lolita in her college class, everything is transitional, bleeding into the next stage, sometimes literally. Nothing is simple in this scenario, from her remembrances to her continuing to seek him out as an adult. One of her final recollections is haunting:

“I wish I had understood Lolita when I read it for the first time. When he read it to me. I wish I had questioned him, questioned everything about us. I wish someone else in my life, another teacher, one of my parents, even a friend, had pushed against the lies I had created, that he created for me. I wish I understood what I was giving up when I let him write our story.”

As a teenager my crushes on teachers were intense. As a mother, that intensity terrifies me. I re-read some of my journal entries after finishing this book, and I am sorely tempted to burn them. Yet I felt the same feeling in the pit of my stomach that Wood describes, the feeling when going over her own journals and poetry from that first year. Being Lolita is an eye-opening look at the belly of the beast, the half-truths that kids tell themselves, and the danger that lurks in the supposedly safe places. This is a stunning, shocking memoir that never ceases to rewrite itself and re-examine the past. This is not a romance, this is not a dark romance. This is instead a cautionary tale that highlights part of the problem that exists on a very basic level in society at large, that is our use of certain words such as Pedophile (child-friend) and Lolita (precocious young girl).

We take the whitewashed route instead of calling it by name: child abuse, victim, predator. We have normalized too much for too long. Ringo Starr was 33 when he sang “You’re sixteen, you’re beautiful and you’re mine.” Alan Alda’s character in MASH expresses interest in his friend’s 18-year-old babysitter, only to be even more interested when he finds out she’s 16. These are things in my life, a culture that I consume on a regular basis, icons of mine. One of my favorite singers, one of my favorite shows. Even though both of these things occurred in a previous time, now I simply don’t know what to do with that.

Being Lolita is a haunting tale of the lies we tell ourselves as we grow, the lies that others tell around us, and the importance of having a safe space in which to continue rewriting ourselves. I now find myself every day being grateful to the men in my life who brushed off a teenage crush without crushing a teenage heart. As our society changes its perceptions and permissions with regards to consent and power, this is an important book from an important perspective that will stick with you long after the last page has turned.
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A high school student's vulnerability is taken advantage of by her trusted English teacher and a heartbreaking and unfortunate romance evolves.  If you pick up one memoir this year, Being Lolita should be it. It is a story that happens all to often and and often goes untold.
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A truly gorgeous book for the MeToo era about how to overcome the lost of one’s power and innocence. Can’t wait to read more from this author!
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This is a story about control. Manipulation. Gas-lighting. Victim-blaming. Victim-shaming. Love.

For those of you who have already read Nabokav's Lolita, you can skip this paragraph: Lolita is a story of a man who marries a woman and then proceeds to fall in love with her teenage daughter. The story continues with Delores, whom her stepfather calls Lolita, traveling around the country with her stepfather while he seduces her and maintains a relationship.  Are you as grossed out as I am? Good. 

The writing in Nabokav's novel is fantastic, albeit hard to comprehend in the 21st century because no middle-aged man should be seducing a 14-year old girl. 

But the parallels Alisson Wood and her teacher have to this story are spot-on. This story was at times gut-wrenching. It actually hurt my heart that this 17, 18, 19+ year old girl felt like she was in love with a man who was purposefully grooming her to be his own personal Lolita. But the hardest parts were when she finally realized.

This is such a fantastic memoir. There is so much going on in here and as a psych grad student I just wanted to know more, to try to pick Alisson's brain. To read this story and constantly remind myself: "this is real life, this was someone's childhood" left me awe-struck throughout. It left me proud when she admitted truths that not many would want to say out loud, even if only to admit to themselves.

Overall HIGHLY recommend. 4 stars.
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I feel like the book Lolita needs to come with a warning sticker that says that if you are a child and an adult asks you to read it, run far far away. Once again it is used as bait by some creep to lure in an underaged girl to rape.
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TW: this novel includes scenes and themes of grooming, sexual assault, sexual violence and emotional abuse.

Despite the very dark (and very real) subject matter, Alisson Wood's memoir Being Lolita is a beautifully written, raw and upsetting journey through her troubled relationship with the charismatic and narcissistic Mr. North, the high school English teacher who seduced her at the age of 17. Obsessed with the Vladimir Nabokov masterpiece Lolita, North uses his reading (see also: misreading) of the novel as a road map for their disturbing relationship, utilizing the literary classic to groom his young mentee. In addition to detailing her past trauma in excruciating detail, Wood also explores how the abuse shaped her adulthood.
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This was very painful to read, because although Lolita is one of my favorite novels, it is fiction. This is the true account of a teenage girl who was groomed by her high school teacher, a grown (but immature) man who seemed to think Lolita was a manual for seduction and romance. I am glad the author wrote it with over a decade of perspective on the situation. My favorite parts were towards the end when she talked about reading Lolita in college, and its effect on her life after the predator was out of her life for good. In a way, the memoir is a cautionary tale, but I also think it's impossible to convince a teenager that she isn't a grown woman with the agency to make her own choices. So it's also a tragedy, because I know it happens all too often, and will continue to happen. If you like coming-of-age memoirs, I recommend it.
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