Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I rate books. What makes a book truly spectacular? There are a lot of factors, but how much I am enjoying reading a book is high on that list, which is why I’ve given Jan Elizabeth Watson’s first novel What Has Become of You a strong 4.5+ star rating. I read this book very quickly. I wanted to find moments where I could find out more about Vera Lundy and Jensen Willard.
Vera is almost 40 and back in her hometown of Dorset, Maine barely making ends meet teaching a class at the community college and sort of working on a true crime book based on a serial killer who killed one of her classmates when she was in high school. After having obtained a master’s degree at Princeton and lived in New York City, one can’t help but wonder how and why she has ended up in this sad small studio apartment with not many friends and no professional success or fulfillment.
Much to her own surprise, she is offered a long-term sub position at a prestigious private high school, with hopes of it becoming a permanent position. She jumps right in teaching Catcher in the Rye to the sophomore girls. It’s a stretch for her, because even though she’s years removed from high school, the reader can feel her insecurity at teaching bright girls and being measured up by popular girls.
The classroom scenes discussing The Catcher in the Rye are interesting, as is the mystery of the deaths of the girls. It’s an interesting combination, which definitely gives this novel a literary feel.
I enjoyed this novel because I wasn’t quite sure where it was going to go. We aren’t sure about the relationship between Vera and Jensen — will Vera cross the line of what is appropriate between student and teacher? Has she already? Can we trust her?
I like the psychological thriller genre, but one thing I don’t appreciate is how dark they can be. Of course this is a dark story, since it deals with crime and serial killers and death and the psychological state of these types of characters, but often on top of that there is very strong language and sexual content.
For this type of book, this novel is relatively free of that type of graphic content, which made me enjoy it even more.