LONER by Teddy Wayne
Kirkus Star

LONER

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A stunning—and profoundly disconcerting—take on the campus novel, Wayne’s (The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, 2013, etc.) latest is as dark as it is addictive.

Academically and personally troubled, Harvard freshman David Alan Federman has spent his adolescence on the outskirts of his life. He is, by his own observation, defined not by his presence but by his utter forgetability, his complete absence of notable traits. His own photograph is “a rectangular vacuum of charisma.” At Harvard, though, he's determined to make himself known. It's at a mandatory orientation meeting that he's first captivated by the otherworldly being of Veronica Morgan Wells, paragon of wealth, of elegance, of “worldliness…taste…[and] social capital.” He is suburban New Jersey; she is all Park Avenue, out of his league. Instead, David begins a (relatively) chaste relationship with Veronica’s more-appropriate roommate, a nice, earnest Latin American history major, the kind of virginal Midwesterner he imagines someone like him would end up with. And still, he lives and breathes for the certainty of his eventual relationship with Veronica, intertwining himself in her life at any cost. But as David’s intensity escalates, it becomes clear that Veronica has an agenda of her own. Slowly, and then all at once, the novel artfully snowballs to its arresting (if somewhat abrupt) conclusion, but despite its elements of psychological suspense, the pleasure of the book is not in its ultratimely plot but in its complicated—and unsettlingly familiar—cast. These people are nuanced even when they're disturbing, human even when they're horrendous. A spectacular stylist, Wayne is deeply empathetic toward his characters, but—brutally and brilliantly—he refuses to either defend or excuse them.

A startlingly sharp study of not just collegiate culture, but of social forces at large; a novel as absorbing as it is devastating.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-5011-0789-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2016




Kirkus Interview
Teddy Wayne
author of LONER
September 13, 2016

In Teddy Wayne’s new novel Loner, David Federman has never felt appreciated. An academically gifted yet painfully forgettable member of his New Jersey high school class, the withdrawn, mild-mannered freshman arrives at Harvard fully expecting to be embraced by a new tribe of high-achieving peers. Initially, however, his social prospects seem unlikely to change, sentencing him to a lifetime of anonymity. Then he meets Veronica Morgan Wells. Struck by her beauty, wit, and sophisticated Manhattan upbringing, David becomes instantly infatuated. Determined to win her attention and an invite into her glamorous world, he begins compromising his moral standards for this one, great shot at happiness. But both Veronica and David, it turns out, are not exactly as they seem. “A spectacular stylist, Wayne is deeply empathetic toward his characters, but—brutally and brilliantly—he refuses to either defend or excuse them,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. “A startlingly sharp study of not just collegiate culture, but of social forces at large; a novel as absorbing as it is devastating.” View video >

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

FictionTHE MARRIAGE PLOT by Jeffrey Eugenides
by Jeffrey Eugenides
FictionTHE LOVE SONG OF JONNY VALENTINE by Teddy Wayne
by Teddy Wayne
FictionPREP by Curtis Sittenfeld
by Curtis Sittenfeld