Fresh out of a mental hospital, schoolteacher Lizanne Demeter is thrilled to get a second chance at her career in the backwater town of Splinter Wood, Pennsylvania. But as idealistic Lizanne settles into her new third-grade classroom, cracks from her recent breakdown start to form.
She initiates a risky romance with a handsome prison inmate. She quits taking her psychiatric medication. And intensifying abuse from an aggressive helicopter mother, Naomi Seabrook, only exacerbates the pressure.
As Lizanne begins to suspect that Naomi is guilty of more than just overindulging her child, she is shocked to learn the extreme distance she must go to ensure that no more children fall through the cracks of the town’s devious plan.
With her entire life teetering on chaos, Lizanne is anxious to prove that she is a more dedicated teacher than anyone dared imagine, including herself.
The Big Thrill was lucky to catch Jennifer Soosar long enough to discuss her debut novel, PARENT TEACHER ASSOCIATION:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
My first hope is that readers were entertained and found the surprise ending both satisfying and thought-provoking. I’d also like them to take away a fresh sense of the expectation triangle between a parent, a teacher, and a child, and how each factors into that child’s development.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
As a psychological suspense set in an elementary school, this book dwells in a territory imbedded with a lot of suppressed anxiety. Beyond the horror of the mass school shootings we, as a society, fear could happen at any given time, there exists a quieter dread. It’s the worry of the parent who hopes their child will fit in, make friends, and excel in his or her studies. It is the butterflies of a child who must navigate in a world of new strangers, both peers and adults. It is the professional angst of teachers and administrators who must deliver knowledge while balancing the demands of parents and their own personal lives.
I saw the classroom as a theatre of deep anxiety and, thus, the perfect place to set a thriller. The book takes a different direction from the terrible news stories we hear all too often and brings a character-driven plot that is driven by a mix of conflicting tensions.
Was there anything new you discovered, or surprised you, as you wrote this book?
I started off the book with the concept of “classroom as battleground” in mind, not certain where exactly it would go. My surprise came as the characters burst to life and took the battle up for themselves in a direction I didn’t predict. I trusted my characters and let them take the lead. The result, I think, is multi-layered and would have been hard to plan ahead myself.
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
My biggest influence is Stephen King who I discovered at age 10 or 11. His storytelling and life-like characters were so enjoyable to read that it inspired me to try writing. He also showed me that you can write about strange, unconventional characters and bizarre things. My first published story was at age 13 in the Toronto Star.
PARENT TEACHER ASSOCIATION is her first novel. She is from Toronto and has a degree in anthropology from York University. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers, Crime Writers of Canada, and Sisters in Crime. She lives with her family in Toronto.
Jennifer’s short story “Profane Pilgrims” was published in the May 2016 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.
To learn more about Jennifer, please visit her website.