After her mother’s death in the spring, Sabine Reyes looks forward to starting the fall semester at a prestigious SoCal art school, which has granted her a coveted scholarship. Once there, though, she struggles in a painting class taught by prickly, allegedly sexist artist Collin Krell, who makes an example of her work and suggests that it’s not up to the school’s standards. Solitary, underresourced, and desperate to hold onto her merit-based scholarship, she turns to graduate student Adam, who gives Sabine access to Krell’s private studio, where she sees his masterpiece in progress. As she struggles with the effects of homelessness and poverty, recalling the time she spent living in her car after her mother died, and frequently nicking supplies from the art store where she works, Sabine grows tangled in a web of deceit and a carefully crafted crime. As Sabine estranges herself from everything she cares about, Linka (A Clawed and Feathered Spell) details her protagonist’s realistic decision-making while offering robust supporting characters who make every plot twist believable. Through Sabine’s first-person narrative, interspersed with “sketches” of her previous life, Linka crafts a unique story, both a twisty thriller and an indictment of education’s high cost and the risks taken in pursuit of a dream. Ages 14–up. 

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