Student debt is so terrifying, it’s now the subject of a John Grisham thriller

Don’t look.
Don’t look.
Image: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis
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“Something is wrong” with America, says JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, referring to its enormous pile of student debt. Economists and educators agree. Novelist John Grisham, whose bestselling thrillers grace the shelves of bookstores, convenience stores, and airports all over, thinks so as well—to the point of having written his latest book about it.

Grisham’s new novel, The Rooster Bar, out this week, centers around three law-school students who discover that their institution is a scam. The plot is partially inspired by a 2014 feature in The Atlantic about for-profit law schools and offers not only a labyrinthine tale of legal education, but a fairly earnest glimpse into the country’s $1.3 trillion student-debt problem.

“‘I’m not smart enough to say what’s going to happen with the crisis, but there’s a day of reckoning coming with all of this debt and students who are unable to pay it,” Grisham said in a MarketWatch interview about the book.

Reckoning, indeed. College degrees are increasingly necessary for finding work in the new economy, and yet schools’ sticker prices will not stop rising. (See: our three-chart explainer for how American ended up with the crisis in the first place.)

Perhaps Grisham’s next novel will simply be a printout of a single-semester tuition bill.