Namkung (The Things We Tell Ourselves, 2015, etc.) presents a novel about a predatory English teacher and the journalists who seek to stop him.
Caryn Rodgers is an undergraduate at the University of Southern California and an intern at the Los Angeles Daily. She’s the daughter of a beauty queen and a diplomat, and her family is wealthy beyond imagination; she didn’t even know how to use a washing machine before she went to college. But her life hasn’t always been idyllic. Six years ago, during her sophomore year at the prestigious Windemere School for Girls, she found herself the target of unwanted advances from her English teacher, Dr. Gregory Copeland, who’s a beloved, longtime member of the faculty. Caryn, with the support of her boss, Jane March, decides to run a personal essay about her experience in the Daily. Her essay, “My Tenth-Grade Teacher Claims He Fell in Love With Me,” winds up causing quite a stir, and other Windemere alumnae come out of the woodwork with their own stories about Copeland. Caryn receives plenty of negative attention, as well, from Copeland’s defenders. Will there be enough evidence for a case, and will Windemere ever admit any wrongdoing? The story progresses quickly, and although some readers may find it difficult to relate to the protagonist’s wealth, other characters of other socio-economic classes help to round out the narrative. It’s through the stories of these characters that more sinister details emerge; for example, the vodka-fueled and heavily tattooed Sasha Sokoloff provides a thorough and disturbing account of her own past with Copeland. Sasha may seem like a familiar character type—a reckless, emotionally scarred beauty bouncing around Los Angeles—but readers do get the opportunity to understand where her pain comes from. A budding romance for Jane doesn’t add much to the plot; indeed, the journalist mainly just serves as a conduit for the victims’ stories. But the details and personalities of the victims, and the many risks that they face in coming forward, ultimately make the book a worthwhile read.
A sober, personable tale about the complexities of sexual abuse and its aftermath.