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American Asshole

A sharp contemporary satire that lovingly confronts the raucous realities of Hollywood, the internet, and the media.

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A bored office worker moves to Los Angeles and tries to make it big with a bizarre crowdfunding campaign in Adam’s debut novel.

River Conway is a 29-year-old aspiring singer and actor whose dreams have been sidelined. After he and his girlfriend, Alana, graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, they moved to Arizona to care for her ailing father. Seven long years later, they’re still there; River is working a dead-end job and worries that it’s too late for him to break into the entertainment industry. Alana donates $10,000 to her celebrity crush’s crowdfunding campaign, and she and River are invited to his party in LA. There, River is inspired to launch a campaign of his own. Although his mother always told him that he was born for greatness (“Why else would an honest, salt of the earth, lower middle class couple from Who Cares, Ohio, name their son River?”), he decides to start “Save an A$$hole,” asking donors to help him leave behind a lifestyle that they wouldn’t want to live themselves. Soon, River has second thoughts and deletes the campaign, but then Alana surprisingly offers to move to LA with him. In Hollywood, her rapid-fire networking lands her a role on a sitcom, and River resorts to relaunching his crowdfund concept. He’s soon contacted by a TV comedy channel that wants to film the last days of the campaign as a telethon. River agrees, and the resulting media sensation and scathing headlines (“Douchebag Becomes Millionaire For No Reason, Nation Weeps”) lead to an exploitative reality show that takes him down an uncertain path. Adam has written a wickedly funny, timely satire, full of piercing jabs at Hollywood and crystal-clear characterizations of brain-dead, disingenuous LA denizens. The fact that River is Tisch-trained but still becomes the chief flake of the moment is amusing, and it shows the push-and-pull relationship that members of River’s generation have with industries that simultaneously seduce and repulse them. The scenarios are wild, but the novel does well to wonder if people obsessed with popular culture can survive in LA without descending into tragicomedy. The ending is a bit neat, but Adam’s tight prose and perfect timing make the story as a whole both playful and gratifying.

A sharp contemporary satire that lovingly confronts the raucous realities of Hollywood, the internet, and the media.

Pub Date: July 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-64606-946-0

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Post-Entropy

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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