In this throwback coming-of-age novel, an ensemble of freshmen on the margins struggle for self-definition amid the race and class complexities of Harvard.
Tosh Livingston, a geeky Jamaican and former superstar athlete, must reinvent himself after an accident on the basketball court that is sure to destroy his rep. He finds deep friendships with Lao, Meera, and Zippa as they pursue spots on the college’s coveted highbrow humor magazine. Through the whirlwind of their journey, they begin to question the purpose of jokes and the consequences of laughter—when it’s not just about the joke, but also about who’s making it and why (a significant, timely exploration as comedy culture today struggles to demarcate ethical boundaries). While the diverse ensemble of core characters defy and refuse reductive stereotypes, there is one trope that feels straight-on about the Harvardness of them all: the smarmy self-satisfaction of a reference just beyond the grasp of the everyday reader. Additionally, the cultural references feel more accessible for a generation that understands the kitsch of the ’90s (e.g. will readers have to Google Tamagotchi?) and the music that anchored the era (many chapters take their names from classic ’90s black and alt/indie music cuts).
Possibly too caught up with the author’s past to be a hit for today’s young readers, yet for those who would like to take a trip through the hallowed Harvard halls of the past, this goes out to you…. (Fiction. 14-adult)