Loner by Teddy Wayne (Simon & Schuster, 2016)
Synopsis : An Indie Next Selection of Independent Booksellers • One of the most anticipated novels of the fall from New York magazine, Glamour, Lit Hub, Boston magazine, The Millions, and BookPage
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 An academically gifted yet painfully forgettable member of his New Jersey high school class, the withdrawn, mild-mannered freshman arrives at Harvard fully expecting to be embraced by a new tribe of high-achieving peers.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.
Loner turns the traditional campus novel on its head as it explores ambition, class, and gender politics. It is a stunning and timely literary achievement from one of the rising stars of American fiction.
Review : 70 / 100
Story : 18 / 25 – Only if I could tell you what happens in the final act of this book... but that is what I cannot do. I can only tell as much as the description lets on. The story gets the reader to both sympathize, get angry, question character's judgement, relate to characters, and scream (sometimes all within the same page). The college story is something that can be really overdone and become a cliché of itself, but the way this book handles the set up and setting creates a different mood apart from your regular run-of-the-mill narrative. The story and writing is wholly immersive (and since I am a college student, I could relate to a lot of the subjects touched upon, but I can see how anyone can get into the book) because of the way it draws the reader in with a daydreamy quality, only for the reader to realize when it is too late that this is not a daydream–it is a nightmare. ––– The story moves along quite well and always keeps the reader on their toes. It takes place over a single semester at school, yet it seems a lot quicker than that. This is my only flaw with the narrative (well, apart from all the gender politics) is that there is not really a sense of time. The story moves so fast that if you aren't paying attention, one could think that it took place within the time span of a week and a half. The plot seems too slow to happen in one semester–seemed more like a month in my opinion. I just know that the final act will stay with me for a long time.
Writing : 22 / 25 – The writing was wickedly awesome. The writing was everything that you would expect from a novel that takes place at Harvard. Even though the writing was well done and moved the story along, not many of quotes stood out to me, but that will come in the quotability section. Teddy Wayne can really get under your skin with his words. I am not sure how to pinpoint it, but during the last act of the novel, I was on edge and feeling strange all because of his wording and the way he moved the story along at its rapid rate. He can really write a speedy novel with pretentious (in all the best ways) prose, yet it seems to lack in actual quote memorability.
Characters : 12 / 20 – Oh, David, David, David, David, David. I really saw some of myself in you, yet I cannot sympathize with you. The truth is that I think everyone has a bit of David in them, but the keyword is "bit." David is the most dynamic character in the novel, as it is written in his point of view. Then comes Veronica. Veronica did not have a character arc until the final pages of the novel–so much of an arc that opinions of the character change within five pages from the ending, even on the final page she changes. No one is how you see them in the novel, but there is one character that is: Sara. I had a hard time liking her character due to her opinions. She is the type of person that is quiet and shy, but then when you do get to hold a conversation with her she will force opinions on you and become overly vocal. I just really could not stand her and to tell you the truth, I crossed out a lot of her lines that struck me the wrong way. The main characters were stand out, but there could have been so much more especially since the book only clocked in at 204 pages. I am not saying that every character needed a story arc, but it would have been nice to not just contain the novel to the three main characters. I want to know more about everyone that sort of faded into the background. I would have even liked the book to be even longer and to have been taken up with more emphasis on the side characters.
Depth : 12 / 15 – The novel focuses on a few social issues, but talking about those issues would ruin the final act. I had very conflicting views about the events that led up to the finale, especially the events with Sara. I can have a dialogue with those who have read the novel, but I can see both sides of the arguments. Teddy offers a viewpoint into the campus lifestyle and all the issues that could rise around it. I personally do not believe some of the opinions and statistics coming from college campuses (as any person would question when looking into where those opinions and statistics originated from), but that doesn't influence my opinion of the novel because things do happen. I think that the finale is terrible, but that is just part of the sad truth.
Quotability : 3 / 10 – For one, this is a novel about Harvard. The wording really showed that sentiment, but the pairing of the words, however, did not make any impression on me. While there are a few memorable lines (like the ones I included here), I really don't think that this has a quote people will keep coming back to. That is unfortunate considering the impact it could have had on the subject matter, but I was able to overlook it.
Engagement : 3 / 5 – As I was saying, the subject that it deals with is enough to make any person engage while reading it. With that being said, that engagement didn't seem to pay off in the grand scheme of things. The novel wraps up with a page and a half of a (sort of) epilogue that left much to be desired. I imagined the consequences to be much grander than they ended up being, but I guess that is just like life...