Gr 9 Up–After the death of her mother, Sabine, winner of a coveted full scholarship, is a first-year student at a prestigious California art school, and very attuned to the anxieties and posturing around her. Krell, her potential mentor, has just completed a portrait which sold for a million dollars unseen, but criticizes Sabine’s technically impeccable but “light” work. Adam, an older grad student who doubles as nighttime maintenance, convinces her that Krell is a misogynist and didn’t support Sabine winning the scholarship. Her anger and vulnerability activated, the two begin a secret, unethical pact for Sabine to study Krell’s concealed painting at night. The writing glides effortlessly between the short, fast-paced chapters and interspersed contemplative verbal “sketches” that reveal the layer of pain beneath Sabine’s tough exterior. The gripping plot moves within romance and mystery, hovering its lens on Sabine as a painter. Scenes focusing on art slow readers down, but the plot surprises with twists and turns. The austere beauty of the southern California landscape, the contemporary art scene, art school competition, fumbling, and surviving all play a role, as do the dire economic woes and pressures (or lack) of parental support. VERDICT Will surely spark deep discussions around contemporary art and the economic pressures of attending art school.–Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School High School, New York City

 

 

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