Wednesday, November 4, 2015
What Has Become of You by Jan Elizabeth Watson
This is a psychological thriller with some mystery thrown in, centered around the character of Vera Lundy, a teacher who also wants to be a true crime writer. Vera's deep interest in true crime began when she was a child, and has led her to seek connections among recent murders of young girls.
Meanwhile, Vera is subbing in as an English teacher at a prestigious private girls' school, where she meets a girl named Jensen Willard, who continuously turns in long journal entries that have a troubling undertone. When tragedy hits Vera's classroom, she is forced to confront truths about her students and herself.
Vera comes across as a bit of a twisted Harriet the Spy, especially in regards to what we learn about her past. I actually wanted to learn more about these important events from when she was a teenager, as they seem fundamental to who she became as an adult. Vera herself even says she sometimes feels she is still the same fifteen year old girl on the inside. The past events are teased out, but I would have liked to see them fleshed out even more.
As a teacher myself, there were a lot of instances when I was grimacing at the choices Vera was making in regards to her class and her students. She desperately wanted to be "the cool teacher". But it made sense in the lens of what she went through as a teenager.
Watson does a great job with the slow burn. The story gradually builds until you realize you haven't put the book down in hours. The lines between fiction and truth begin to blur, and you're not sure what to believe anymore. I found the ending satisfying and fitting, though I know not all readers did.