A group of prep schoolers reckon with their ennui thanks to doom metal and a new classmate nicknamed after a famous nihilist.

Iyer has found a niche in seriocomic fiction about very serious philosophers: Wittgenstein Jr (2014) was a funny campus novel about logic, and this follow-up is a funny campus novel about despair. At its center is a group of students in Wokingham, 20 miles away from London, eager to finish classes and move on with their lives. But as their final semester begins, a new arrival, kicked out of his previous school under vague circumstances, at once unsettles their relationships and sharpens their cynicism. The new boy scribbles “NIHILISM” in his notebook, is prone to dark and gnomic pronouncements in class (“All things die in time”), and maintains a blog musing on the meaning(lessness) of suburbia (“Nothing will happen here….Unless the voiding of time is itself an event”). His dour temperament quickly earns him the nickname Nietzsche. (We never learn his real name.) The clique soon welcomes him at school and, later, at band practice, where they’re laboring on droning, sludgy rock that evokes their angst. Iyer neatly captures the way Nietzsche’s philosophy of the eternal return is a perfect fit for cynical teenagers who are sure it’s all been done, but Iyer also wants to explore how frantic teenage emotions challenge their assurances; suicide, love, sex, and self-destructive instincts all figure in the plot. As for comedy, Iyer has a knack for the one-upping banter that demonstrates maturity and insecurity at the same time. The cycles of hope-despair-repeat among the characters get repetitive, but credit Iyer for thinking big: That little garage band is determined to “start a new society” and be a “clue to a new way of life.”

Dark, brooding fun.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61219-812-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.


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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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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