This is a very strange book, almost a thriller and almost a mystery, but not quite.
Jacob Finch Bonner teaches writing at an inferior low-residency MFA program in Vermont. His first novel was mildly successful; his short story collection was not, and now he is badly blocked and dispirited. His students are unpromising, and one of this year’s students is an annoying, arrogant jerk. The first chapter’s of this jerk’s projected novel are, if not very good, not terrible. Bonner tries to offer good advice, but the annoying student tells him not to bother: the plot of this novel is so good, he doesn’t need writing tips. The student is insufferable — but right.
It’s a good premise, and the execution is not bad. One difficulty is that Jake is a dolt. It’s like watching a slasher movie: one is constantly shouting at the protagonist, “No! Don’t do that!” This isn’t played for laughs; it's entirely earnest. It’s not bad.