Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What Has Become of You - Jan Elizabeth Watson

Summary: What Has Become of You follows Vera Lundy, an aspiring crime writer and master of self-deprecation who, like many adults, has survived adolescence but hasn’t entirely overcome it. When she agrees to fill in for a private school English teacher on maternity leave, teaching The Catcher in the Rye to privileged girls, Vera feels in over her head. The students are on edge, too, due to the recent murder of a local girl close to their age.

Enter Jensen Willard. At fifteen she’s already a gifted writer but also self-destructive and eerily reminiscent of Vera’s younger self. As the two outcasts forge a tentative bond, a sense of menace enfolds their small New England town. When another student, new to the country, is imperiled by her beliefs, Vera finds herself in the vortex of danger—and suspicion.

With the threat of a killer at large, the disappearance of her increasingly worrisome pupil, and her own professional reputation at stake, Vera must thread her way among what is right by the law, by her students, and by herself. In this poignant page-turner, populated with beguiling characters and sharp social insights, coming-of-age can happen no matter how old you are. (Summary and Pic from

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: So. I’ve been trying to decide what it is that I didn’t like about this book. It’s not the writing—the writing was fine. It’s easy to get into, easy to read, and moves along at a fairly quick pace. It wasn’t the way the book looked (and yes, this matters). It’s actually a really nice, well-made book that feels good in your hand and has a nice weight to it. So I think what it was the main character. I really, really didn’t like the main character.

The problem is, I think I was supposed to like the main character. At least I was supposed to relate to her or understand where she was coming from or something? Or maybe feel sorry for her?  I don’t know. All I could think of was how creepy she was, actually. One thing I do know for sure is that I was supposed to think that the high school girl stalking down the teacher was creepy. And yeah, she was. I mean, I could totally see her as one of those troubled, manipulative girls that is obviously trying to find someone to rope into her dysfunctional (and in this, case, lethal) ways, but I don’t know. I guess I could buy that easily enough. Yeah, she was a bad girl. She should have been in juvey and I’m surprised that she made it as far as she did in this bookland because in the real world, she would have been with all of her other sociopathic comrades. She totally had everyone hoodwinked (because her parents were obviously stupid) but the teacher? Why, oh why was she so weak and obviously ridiculous?

It’s hard not to give away what happens. Sure, this book does have some action, but the apex can’t be revealed because then there’s really nothing left if I do—but the teacher just totally bugged me. She violated not only every ethical teacher protocol out there, but left me with a bad taste in my mouth thinking she was just kind of a loser who had made stupid decisions her whole life and this was just one of about a bajillion. Give or take. I’m sure if one of my teacher friends read this they would have been totally bugged by her and her ridiculous shenanigans.  I sincerely hope my children never have a teacher like this. I am going to be more vigilant about that from now on.

And I don’t know. Maybe I just really didn’t like being in such a weak character’s head. Not that the writing of the character was weak. No, that was strong. I guess that’s why I’m so bugged by her weakness.  It made me uncomfortable to see how she thought and acted, and I couldn’t help but think that either this was someone that really wouldn’t exist or someone I really didn’t want to know. And maybe this was the point? I’m not sure.

My Rating: 2 Stars. I hate weak characters I don’t like.

For the Sensitive Reader: This book has some minor language and violence (though it is not really graphic) and minor teenage sexual exploits. It is pretty standard for adult fiction fare.

1 comment:

Ann Summerville said...

Sorry it was a disappointment. Sometimes it's difficult to feel empathy for a character who doesn't react the way you think they should. Good review.


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