Winning a scholarship to California’s most prestigious art school seems like a fairy tale ending to Sabine Reye’s awful senior year. After losing both her mother and her home, Sabine longs for a place where she belongs.
But the cutthroat world of visual arts is nothing like what Sabine had imagined. Colin Krell, the renowned faculty member whom she had hoped would mentor her, seems to take merciless delight in tearing down her best work—and warns her that she’ll lose the merit-based award if she doesn’t improve.
Desperate and humiliated, Sabine doesn’t know where to turn. Then she meets Adam, a grad student who understands better than anyone the pressures of art school. He even helps Sabine get insight on Krell by showing her the modern master’s work in progress, a portrait that’s sold for a million dollars sight unseen.
Sabine is enthralled by the portrait; within those swirling, colorful layers of paint is the key to winning her inscrutable teacher’s approval. Krell did advise her to improve her craft by copying a painting she connects with . . . but what would he think of Sabine secretly painting her own version of his masterpiece? And what should she do when she accidentally becomes party to a crime so well -plotted that no one knows about it but her?
Complex and utterly original, What I Want You to See is a gripping tale of deception, attraction, and moral ambiguity.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the lovely publisher & author, but that has in no way affected my review.
I have to say, I’m surprised. Based on my tendency to be utterly bored by YA contemporaries, my marginal enjoyment of this novel is actually a great sign for anyone with similar opinions to me.
The main character is actually really interesting. She isn’t a complete “woe-is-me” victim looking for a savior, and she isn’t completely innocent. Two of the worst attributes in YA main characters in my opinion. To be fair, no spoilers, but she does shove off blame which bothers me slightly (possibly because I completely identify with that reflex). In that way, the author also makes Sabine more realistic, which I appreciate. I’ve decided to cut her some slack as in the context of the story she really isn’t completely at fault, but it’s not a great look. I didn’t end up particularly caring for the character, but I appreciated her situation and didn’t feel like I was being forced to like her despite attributes that are obviously sympathetic. Just gently pushed. I think I like unapologetic, craven anti-heroes way too much. Moving on.
I was a fan of the side characters as well. Again, no spoilers, but her love interests are complex. Sometimes in good ways, and others in… well… not so good ways. My favorite character is one who comes in at the very end, but her teacher is second in my mind. I feel like it’s really unique for teachers to be dynamic characters in YA novels despite that they play a huge role in our lives, and I love that he played such a big role in the book.
The plot of the novel was probably the most unique thing about it, and I thought it was pretty awesome. While our main character mostly gets herself into messes, there are characters who also drive the story alongside (and sometimes in complete opposition to) her, who make the story much more suspenseful.
Overall, I’d rate it 4/5, just because fives go to books that are especially miraculous in my eyes, but I think it’s a solid read.
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Catherine Linka is the author of the YA novel What I Want You To See as well as the dystopian series A Girl Called Fearless and A Girl Undone. A Girl Called Fearless was an ABA Indie Next Pick and won the YA Novel Award 2014 from the So Cal Independent Booksellers Association. A frequent speaker at writing and teen conferences, Catherine received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and worked as a YA book buyer for a bookstore for seven years. Prior to pursuing a career in publishing, she studied intl. politics at Georgetown University followed by a master’s degree in business at UNC. Catherine is married and lives with her husband in the San Gabriel foothills.