cover image Indecent


Corinne Sullivan. Wednesday, $24.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-14707-3

In Sullivan’s tense and surprising debut, recent college graduate Imogene Abney begins a yearlong teaching apprenticeship at the elite Vandenberg School for Boys in Scarsdale, N.Y., a place “steeped in honor, tradition, and many, many rules.” She is enamored of the school, exactly the kind of place she herself would have wanted to attend, had she been rich and male, and she quickly becomes obsessed with one of its students, Kip, who embodies all she is not. Their affair escalates quickly, based almost entirely on his cocky surety and Imogene’s many, visible insecurities (she picks the skin on her face until it bleeds, and sometimes goes days without leaving bed, eating, or showering). Sullivan’s novel is at its best in its brief glimpses of the past, demonstrating what Imogene sees as her successes and failures in high school and college—these passages give the reader insight into what Imogene could possibly be searching for in her job-risking relationship, showing the depth of her confused standards and instincts for self-destruction. Less compelling is the affair itself. It’s far from discreet, and the constant threat of exposure that looms throughout—whether by a fellow apprentice or Kip’s wide circle of friends—feels low-stakes compared to Imogene’s rich, contradictory, and devastating interior life. Nevertheless, this is an affecting novel, examining self-doubt, self-sabotage, and the lasting impact of both. (Mar.)