I picked up Teddy Wayne’s newest novel, Loner because it sounded like an interesting, sort of coming-of-age mystery. And the cover is modeled after Harvard’s crest, which, I’m not going to lie, is what immediately caught my attention. Loner is one of those rare books that took me by surprise, in the sense that it turned out to be something completely different than I was expecting.
David Federman has always felt under-appreciated. When he arrives at Harvard, he is expecting to find his tribe, a group of like-minded, high-achieving peers. Instead, he finds that there are cliques outside of high school, and the friends he’s made in his first few weeks aren’t exactly popular. Then he meets Veronica Morgan Wells and becomes instantly infatuated. Determined to win her attention, and gain entry to her glamorous world, David begins compromising his morals in exchange for what he believes is his one shot at happiness. But both David and Veronica are hiding huge secrets.
Loner is written in second-person point of view (which reminded me a lot of Caroline Kepnes’s You). I found it especially interesting in that, while we are allowed deep into the mind of David, as he writes to Veronica, I still was totally shocked by his actions at the end of the book. I think it was really well done, in that respect. The narrative voice also stood out to me in a good way; I think second-person POV is a really challenging technique to get right, and this book did it. David’s voice was unique and, to me, seemed really authentic. It’s something I can see annoying a lot of people, to be honest, but, as someone who spent a lot of time at Harvard in college (no, I didn’t actually go there, I just had friends there), I can tell you that David sounds so much like a Harvard student. Harvard kind of has its own way of speaking that is pretentious and nerdy, but, in most cases, is totally natural. A few pages in, I began to wonder if Wayne actually attended Harvard, because he captured the Harvard voice so well, and, as it turns out, he did. Definitely one of my favorite parts of this book.
I kind of liked David’s brand of weird. Which, you could probably also call crazy, but he does such a good job justifying his actions, that you really see things from his perspective. His expectations from college and his friends and society were, for the most part, unreasonable, but also expectations someone in his situation would have. Veronica Morgan Wells was a bit more unrealistic, in my opinion. She was somewhere between manic pixie dream girl, and Gossip Girl. She was the kind of girl you think you might encounter in college, but never actually do. That said, I did really like her as a character.
It’s taken me a while to write this review, because I try to stay away from spoilers on my blog, but I do feel the need to address the ending of this book. Partly because it might be a trigger for some people, and partly because it was so completely different than the rest of the book that, when I read it, it completely shocked me. So much so, that I had to go back and make sure I hadn’t missed anything.
[If you don’t want to hear anything about the ending of this book, don’t read the following paragraph.]
The majority of this book is an interesting story that toes the line between friendship, romance, and something more akin to stalking. I enjoyed the storyline, and liked how David grows progressively crazier as he tries desperately to impress Veronica. I wasn’t exactly expecting the final chapter of this book to essentially be a commentary on campus rape. The actual event itself happens quickly, but the aftermath is also discussed, which I think is very important. I don’t want to give too much away, but it was done in a way which made me rethink my opinions on society’s treatment of rape and rape victims, particularly on college campuses. Basically, it’s about what should happen following such a traumatic incident, versus what, unfortunately, actually happens. To be honest, I’m still not totally sure how I feel about it, but I love that it got me thinking about such an impactful issue, and one that is especially prevalent in today’s society.
Overall, I thought Loner was a great read, and I’d highly recommend it to fans of Caroline Kepnes!
Loner will be available tomorrow, September 13th from Simon & Schuster. Click here to order your copy from Amazon.
This book was provided to me by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.