A sharp and tightly crafted tale of campus exploitation.

MISS JANE

THE LOST YEARS

A young college student begins an affair with her history professor in this novel.

Why is a male teaching women’s history?” That’s what Miss Jane, a “Cracker hick/chick” away at a state university on a scholarship, would like to know when she sits down with her 30 female classmates (and three female teaching assistants) in Prof P’s seminar classroom. Her precociousness does not escape the professor’s notice, as he quickly moves Jane from the study group overseen by TA Alice to his own. Prof P is a popular, hip teacher, the kind who holds his classes outside and tosses his students’ notebooks across the lawn, haranguing them not to scribble but to think. He is a divorced father on the cusp of middle age, and Jane is the ninth of his “college gal projects,” easy conquests due to the power imbalance between teacher and pupil. Jane can’t help but be flattered by the attention Prof P heaps on her. Anyway, he’s easier to talk to than hookup partner and fellow student Seth B. Despite the warnings of her ambitious roommate, Cinda G, Jane allows Prof P to seduce her before finals. She feels deeply confused about the affair while home for Christmas break but then accepts Prof P’s offer to move in with him when she returns to school the next semester. As Jane becomes more deeply embroiled in Prof P’s world—his colleagues, children, and the complicit echo chamber of the academy—the situation threatens to upend her education and cause more lasting damage: “With Miss Jane nightly in his bed, Prof P’s mission grows exponentially more ambitious. To subdue a body, one thing; to reprogram a mind, a thing far grander.” Meads’ (In This Season of Rage and Melancholy Such Irrevocable Acts as These, 2016, etc.) prose is playfully postmodern, layered with linguistic tricks and dripping with self-awareness. The narrator is a Greek chorus animated by the righteous indignation that the confused Jane does not yet possess: “Thematically we will stay the course. Power politics. Sexual politics. Age versus youth. Authority’s manipulation of head-to-pubes-to-toe confusion. The world’s themes do not change, why should they here?” The novel is short, but nearly every sentence is imbued with a wry, astute, or lyrical comment. While at first the whole thing feels highly satirical, the characters are slowly revealed to possess unexpected complexity, particularly Jane and her fellow students. Even Prof P, who is not at all sympathetic, is frighteningly believable. Meads endeavors not simply to show how such an affair comes about, but also how much damage it can do to the younger party. She provides a response to the many campus novels over the years written from the (usually permissive) perspective of the lecherous professor. Though the story takes place in 1969—and many of the barbs, such as Prof P’s Greek fisherman’s cap and turquoise necklace, are aimed specifically at that era—the book feels incredibly relevant to today’s reckoning with powerful men’s sexual abuse of the women around them.

A sharp and tightly crafted tale of campus exploitation.

Pub Date: May 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60489-201-7

Page Count: 203

Publisher: Livingston Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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