I don’t often review novels on Lines and Colors, but when I received a review copy of Catherine Linka’s What I Want You to See, I was intrigued.
Set in the environment of a competitive art school, the novel is both a mystery and the personal story of a promising art student.
Sabine Reyes is struggling to hold on to the uncharacteristic good fortune of a full scholarship, and simultaneously hiding the fact that she is one step removed from homelessness.
Overwhelmed with her efforts to please a demanding instructor and hoped-for mentor, and carrying the weight of debts, both financial and personal, Sabine has to navigate her classes, part-time jobs, and show preparation amid the emotional pull of rivals, friends and potential lovers.
In the process she becomes caught up in a criminal act that upends what little stability she has in her life.
Though I don’t know enough about California art schools to know if the school portrayed is based on an actual one, as a former art student, the milieu rings true, as does the modernist/traditionalist conflict and the stratification of students favored by their instructors.
What art students may identify with most strongly is Sabine’s effort to push through the noise and conflict to bring her painting skills to another level and shape her artistic identity.
In telling the story, Linka resists predictable plot arcs and keeps the reader as off balance as Sabine herself, and just as eager to know how things will turn out.
There is a page devoted to the title on Catherine Linka’s website.