Updated: Jun 5, 2020
What I Want You to See
Author: Catherine Linka
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion Release Date: February 4th 2020
Genre: Young Adult
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.
interview with author
1. Did any famous paintings inspire this book?
Definitely! One joy of writing WHAT I WANT YOU TO SEE was picking out artwork for each character. Sabine, my main character, is all about portraits. She’s interested in how portraits reveal things about the person in the painting as well as the painter. The painting Sabine falls in love with that lures her into danger was inspired by the work of Japanese artist, Makoto Saito. (this also inspired my brilliant cover designer, Jaime Alloy!)
2. What kind of research did you have to do to write this book?
Art’s one of my passions, but I knew almost nothing about contemporary art. I live in LA so I challenged myself to spend a year exploring the amazing collections here and learning about contemporary art. I read tons of interviews with artists, essays by art critics and books about the art world and art crime. I listened to podcasts like Art Attack and went to lots of shows and museums. I fell in love with a new set of artists and learned it’s okay if you don’t like what Eli Broad or the Marcianos chose for their collection. You need to find artwork that speaks to you.
3. Are you yourself involved in any sort of visual or performing art and did that affect how you wrote the book?
I painted, drew and did ceramics as a teen and I still draw today. Sketching is meditative. Time disappears and anxiety fades as you melt into a drawing. I don’t think I could have written WHAT I WANT YOU TO SEE if I didn’t know what it’s like to work with paint or to express your thoughts and emotions visually.
4. Were there any experiences or events in the book inspired by your own real life experiences and relationships. Specifically, I noticed in your biography that you were once expelled from boarding school for your outspokenness and being “too verbal” for the school. Did that experience play a role in the creation of this book?
Okay, I was almost expelled, and probably would have been except my dad dared the headmaster to go ahead and do it… I continue to be outspoken about things that strike me as wrong, but now I express my feelings in stories. I’m angry that LA’s lack of affordable housing has pushed tens of thousands of people out of their homes so I made Sabine a student experiencing homelessness. I want to show readers that Sabine is smart and sober, that she isn’t lazy or mentally ill, and she’s determined to prove she’s a talented artist. I want my book to be a window into homelessness among college students for readers and a mirror for those experiencing it.
5. Are there some fun facts about this book that is not explicitly mentioned that you would like to share? I’m quite curious myself.
I love finding a song that captures my character. Hearing Lucie Silvas sing Smoke was like hearing Sabine’s inner thoughts. “Somebody stop me. I am a danger to myself.” I don’t quote Smoke in the book, but for the character Kevin I was lucky enough to get permission from Mandolin Orange to use a line from the song One More Down (thanks, again, Andrew Marlin!) A few months later, they toured LA so I got to hear it live!
about the author
Catherine Linka is the author of the young adult 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 Young Adult Novel Award 2014 from the Southern California 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 young adult book buyer for an independent bookstore for seven years. Prior to pursuing a career in publishing, she studied international politics at Georgetown University followed by a master’s degree in business at the University of North Carolina. Catherine is married and lives with her husband in the San Gabriel foothills. Visit her at www.catherlinelinka.com.