Loner: A Novel

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From the award-winning author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, a novel as unsettling as it is impossible to put down.

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 An academically gifted yet painfully forgettable member of his New Jersey high school class, the withdrawn, mild-mannered freshman arrives at Harvard fully expecting to be embraced by a new tribe of high-achieving peers.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.

Loner: A Novel by Teddy Wayne

Publication Date: September 13, 2016 by Simon & Schuster

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My Thoughts:

This book is terrifying and made my skin crawl at times the whole time I was reading. And yet I couldn’t put it down.

The content of the story is disturbing. The reader is forced to listen to the internal dialogues of David, a self-proclaimed loner who thinks attending Harvard will bring a change to his social status. However, it becomes obvious quite early on that David isn’t really looking to make meaningful relationships and his obsession with fellow classmate, Veronica, only helps to spin him further away from any true connections with his peers.

There were moments in the beginning where perhaps it is possible for the reader to feel empathy, or at the very least – pity, for our narrator. He clearly has difficulty fitting in and there are some seriously cringeworthy moments where it’s a little easier to see why David is the way he is and why human interaction doesn’t come easy to him. But then David’s obsession with Veronica slowly starts to build in intensity and all feelings of concern for our narrator fly out the window.

I don’t know what the author’s intent was when writing this novel, but as a female reader, my thoughts kept returning to what the narration shared about male privilege. As David’s behavior and thought processes became more and more extreme, I found myself thinking about news headlines such as this one. Not to mention, all one needs to do is type something like “man kills woman for rejecting him” into a google search and hundreds of articles pop up. It’s an issue that is frighteningly prevalent in our society and Wayne’s novel puts the reader right into the head of someone who feels like an Elliot Rodger or one of the slew of men who have felt “owed” by a woman just because they showed them attention.

Wayne shows this slow build up in David’s character in the thoughts he has regarding Veronica’s lack of interest:

“By Tuesday my [Facebook friend] request remained unanswered. If your delay was calculated, it was no longer cute. I wrote an entire essay for you; all you had to do was click a button or press on a screen.”

“So you had time for her but not the guy who wrote your paper.”

Again and again, David sees Veronica’s unwillingness to engage in a romantic relationship with him to be an affront against him.  What’s even more frightening/sad is that David never truly sees his behavior as anything but normal or appropriate – anything he does he deems as a worthy response to Veronica’s actions.  There’s SO much more to be said about the ending of this book, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read Teddy Wayne’s novel yet!

Perhaps I missed the point of the book entirely, but I enjoyed it nonetheless for the questions it raised on an issue I feel so strongly about.  So despite the serious creep factor, I would definitely recommend this novel!

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