The Truants

Putnam. Jan. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9780525541967. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780525541981. F
DEBUT This first novel opens as main character Jess chooses her college in East Anglia owing to her obsession with literature professor Lorna Clay, who wrote the blockbuster book The Truants, arguing that artists must break societal rules to foster their creativity. During her first term, Jess enrolls in Lorna’s seminar about Agatha Christie and is encouraged to explore the meaning behind Christie’s mysterious 11-day disappearance. (The Christie angle adds a unique twist but feels a bit contrived.) Jess is equally captivated by her reckless friend Georgie and irresistibly drawn toward Georgie’s dangerous boyfriend Alec, despite her involvement with the nice but unexciting Nick. Will Jess follow Lorna’s advice and risk everything to follow her heart? And are any of the people Jess admires really what they seem?
VERDICT Though the outlines of the story are familiar, Jess is eminently sympathetic and likable, and Weinberg skillfully depicts the headiness of the transition to college life. The ending feels needlessly protracted, however, as Jess spends several years during and after college (and following what should be the climax of the novel) attempting to solve the mystery of what happened her first year. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/19.]

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