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The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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“Well, whatever you do, however terrible, however hurtful, it all makes sense, doesn't it, in your head. You never meet anybody that thinks they're a bad person.”

The Talented Mr. Ripley is an enthralling psychological thriller set in 1920s America and Europe. A hint of its ­success can be garnered from its four sequels, two movies, and radio adaptation.

Patricia Highsmith is a uniquely subtle writer with a devilish wit. Her prose possesses a deft poetic quality that gives the impression that each word is significant – a piece of a much larger, more complex puzzle that is Tom Ripley's warped point of view.

Ripley, the eponymous protagonist, is a young man of little wealth living in New York. Ripley embodies the American dream of a nobody becoming a well-respected and successful somebody. He elevates the dream to its highest form: he wants, he takes – consequences be damned.

Through a case of mistaken identity, Ripley gets caught up in the lives of rich playboy Dickie Greenleaf and his friends and is transported to the luxurious Italian coast. When Ripley discovers that he loves Dickie's life, he decides to become Dickie.

The heart and soul of the book is the masterfully characterized Tom Ripley. To see him spiral from a likeable, almost universally relatable character to a psychopath is deeply unsettling. Worse still, his character undergoes no great epiphany or change. It is as if this transition is the natural way of things, with Ripley still essentially being the protagonist we sympathized and even empathized with at the start. The reader perversely roots for Ripley in his attempts to hold onto his new life that is built on deceit.

Highsmith makes an uncomfortable insinuation in what Tom Ripley – representing the average person, including the reader – is capable of. For a book to exhort such strong emotions from readers is as ­effective as writing “fantastic” on the front cover.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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