Rebecca Makkai, whose breakout novel The Great Believers was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, returned with another novel early this year that aims to confront unreliable memories and the consequences of assumptions.

Ms. Makkai said that in I Have Some Questions For You, she set out to create a clickbait murder investigation in the perfect setting. In the novel, an examination and critique of true crime media, main character Bodie finds herself back at the elite boarding school she once attended — where her roommate was murdered long ago, supposedly by the school’s athletic trainer.

“Let’s actually look at the type of story that would be perfect clickbait,” Ms. Makkai said. “It has all of those elements, and it’s the victim we all want to see. And it’s the setting — people love to watch bad things happen to rich people.”

Bodie, a self-proclaimed outsider, is intrigued by what facts she may have overlooked while attending the school. As she looks back, some facts seem clearer while others are more muddled.

Ms. Makkai said that I Have Some Questions For You was shaped by things she was worrying about and obsessing over as she wrote it, such as memories and how people consume crime-related media. She began writing it in 2019, when those elements were on her mind.

“I didn’t need to make the decision,” she said. “It was just part of the air that we’re breathing.”

Writing a book about memory poses its challenges, Ms. Makkai said. She wanted to avoid lengthy flashbacks and stay true to how people really experience memories, in short bursts and with less than complete facts.

“I did not want the narrative to jump back in time and show us what actually happened,” she said. “I wanted it all to be filtered through memory. And the problem with memory is it’s completely unreliable.”

There were also some unavoidable questions to grapple with, she said, such as how people deal with something they thought was okay in the moment but in hindsight clearly wasn’t. Exploring these questions in fiction presents an opportunity for readers to discuss them, Ms. Makkai said.

“This is a great thing about book clubs. To have those conversations between other people, if not just between yourself and the book, those are not as easy to have or find outside of fiction,” she said.

Ms. Makkai said she hopes her book encourages readers to look back on their own adolescent experiences and consider the “gray area” around events that take place in one’s life. She hopes the novel will act as a kind of bridge between fiction and real life.

“I would hope that it causes people to have conversations about what people put up with,” she said. “What we were bystanders to, what we ourselves maybe perpetrated and how that looks different with the passage of time.”

Rebecca Makkai will take part in a panel discussion at 9:30 a.m. on August 5, and a conversation with Geraldine Brooks at 1:10 p.m. on August 6.