By: Teddy Wayne
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 9/13/2016
My Rating: 4 Stars 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 An academically gifted yet painfully forgettable member of his New Jersey high school class, the withdrawn, mild-mannered freshman arrives at Harvard fully expecting to be embraced by a new tribe of high-achieving peers.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.
A special thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. From the author of The Love Story of Jonny Valentine- a novelist, a columnist for the New York Times, and a regular to The New Yorker, Teddy Wayne delivers a captivating novel of a Harvard freshman who becomes obsessed with a classmate. LONER is witty, creepy, and layered with absorbing insights – a portrayal of the dangers of monsters which live among us, and the hyper-connected contemporary digital age of today. From privilege, entitlement, greed, a psychopath, to dark and dangerous obsession. A terrifying stalker cautionary tale. A young man which does not have what he feels he's entitled to. Antisocial personality disorder characterized by a lack of regard for the moral or legal standards in local culture. A marked inability to get along with others or abide by societal rules. A smart, deeply insecure, and socially unacceptable Harvard freshman makes his way through life, relationships, and an attempt at love—from academics to social challenges. David Alan Federman, a new Harvard student. His roommate Steven Zenger, the extroverted physicist in training. His New Jersey lawyer father and mother; they seem excited. The first day with their false words of wisdom. His dad said he had to find his "tribe". He had hoped his roommate would help upgrade him, to a higher social stratum. A new start from high school. When the college acceptance list was posted, his classmates were shocked that he was their class’s lone Harvard-bound senior (David Federman’s yearbook prediction—fill in later). David is a loner. And he is troubled. His parents have always acted slightly unnatural around him. He hopes his luck will change when he gets to Harvard. He wants to become “someone”. "It’s convenient, in hindsight, to blame Harvard." But it wasn’t the guilty party. Immediately, David (which likes to spell things backwards) is captivated by Veronica Morgan Wells. He is infatuated with Veronica, a glamorous, sophisticated Manhattanite in his dorm. The New Yorker. Park Avenue. Her world was not limited to high schools, but encompassed small-world networks of the well-heeled: second homes, clubs, family connections. She is clearly “out of his league”. However, he is driven, misguided, and tenacious. He has an evil clever plan. He has a goal. Getting to her through her roommate, Sara, from Ohio. A two-person suite. What begins as an infatuation, spirals out of control: a dark, disturbing portrait of obsession and an examination of class and gender politics. "There’s just one Everest, and only the most heroic can reach the summit." When things get intense, Veronica may have her own agenda. Who is using whom? The tables may turn. David thought, Veronica could be impressed with his idiosyncratic yet weird talent. David has hope--beneath her sophisticated outward appearance, she may be something of a loner which could be his soul mate, or so he wishes. Though all his sacrifices with Sara, will Veronica overhear him? (the author really has some witty lines) Will his wacky plan work? He had the power to wound another person. He wanted to be the kind of person people gossiped about. He may just get his wish. “She could coast at Harvard on sheer native aptitude. Just like me.” My Favorite Part: Freshman Lower-Value Male “Beta!” Reality check. To what lengths would Beta extend himself for a presumptive possibility of sex? Power dynamics. “Each time my eyes passed over the word 'Beta', it was as if an organ were surgically extracted from me without anesthesia and deposited on the operating table so I could witness my own vivisection.” That’s all I was to you? 'Beta'.“That’s all I was.” A creative in-depth look at the disturbing psychotic mind of a young man, longing to be socially accepted. His whole world revolves around his obsession. From social media to stalking, he never lets up with the games. Quite entertaining! In our world today of violence and hatred, a realistic portrayal of the minds of those, who resort to the horrific acts, we see plastered in the news today. From sexual assault, racial and sexual discrimination, predators, and blowing up night clubs, colleges, and schools. It starts somewhere and ignites. Dark, twisted, and psychotic suspense. Yes, even literary, with the author’s well-crafted prose. A brilliant tale of obsessive love...it's GONE GIRL meets a version of YOU, and the guy everyone loves to hate “Joe.” However, David is not a likable soul, so he will not have the same love/hate affair relationship with the reader. Fans of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman will enjoy! Some great posts and interviews with the author: "Loner Author Teddy Wayne on Tackling the Campus Novel and Male Privilege" The author discusses the dark social forces that influenced his latest book. Vanity Fair "A startlingly sharp study of not just collegiate culture, but of social forces at large; a novel as absorbing as it is devastating." Chicago Tribune "Teddy Wayne's Loner Sheds Light on the Plight of All the Sad, Insecure Young Men" Esquire
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
“Stunning—and profoundly disconcerting…the pleasure of the book is not in its ultra-timely plot but in its complicated—and un-settlingly 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.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Like a novel of manners distorted by a twisted funhouse mirror, Teddy Wayne’s Loner moves with wit and stealth and merciless deliberation towards increasingly brutal psychic terrain. Reading it, I found myself amused and then—with creeping force—afraid, repulsed, and ultimately unwilling to put it down." —Leslie Jamison, New York Times bestselling author of The Empathy Exams and The Gin Closet
"Teddy Wayne perfectly conjures the mind of a keenly observant, socially ambitious, and utterly heartless college student. Yet no matter what outlandish things David does, I couldn't help but root for him—until the book's gut-punch ending." —Adelle Waldman, bestselling author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
“Loner moves ahead to its climax (and a superbly executed plot twist) with the sickening momentum of a horror movie…It stands in stark contrast to Mr. Wayne’s previous novel, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine (2013), a funny, sympathetic portrait of a teenybopper pop star. The range shown in these two books, which move from the ridiculous to the chilling, is evidence of a rising talent.”—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“Loner is a brave book that takes up the calling of literature to unsettle the reader into new understanding of the world. Wayne employs extraordinarily fine psychological brushwork to produce something rare in our desensitized era: a genuinely disturbing portrait, not just of a fundamentally unreliable narrator but of a culture that prizes class, achievement, and beauty over nourishing human connection.
David Federman is one of the most authentically menacing characters to come around in a novel in a long time. There is no cartoon bogeyman here, only a chaser after that external proof of value that our pragmatic culture demands of eighteen-year-olds. Wayne holds a mirror up to an America in which self-esteem is paramount, parents enable inhumanity in the name of advancement, and unchecked ego combines with social failure to yield monstrous ends. It behooves us all to take a careful look in the mirror Wayne offers, because the monster depicted here is the one next door. The twists in the plot keep the reader’s heart racing, even as the protagonist’s blood runs cold.” —Matthew Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves
"Teddy Wayne’s captivating and increasingly disturbing Loner features a character that you’d like to hug if you could be assured that he wouldn’t try to stab you. It’s a wonderfully unnerving and unreliable first-person account of a dangerous stalker who is also a shy teenager just trying to get a date with the popular girl in school. This impossible-to-reconcile character, mixed with Wayne’s wry charm, makes Loner as thrilling as it is cautionary."—Jesse Eisenberg, author of Bream Gives Me Hiccups
"The reader is...compelled to frantically turn the pages."—Publishers Weekly
"A frightening portrayal of privilege." —Marie Claire
"Magnetic...incredibly compelling." —BookPage
“An enthralling portrait of male narcissism and voyeuristic obsession.” —Library Journal (starred review)
About the Author
Teddy Wayne is the author of the novels Loner (forthcoming Sept. 2016 from Simon & Schuster), The Love Song of Jonny Valentine (Simon & Schuster), and Kapitoil (Harper Perennial). A regular contributor to the The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and McSweeney’s, he is the winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award and an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship as well as a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award, PEN/Bingham Prize, and Dayton Literary Peace Prize. He has taught at Columbia University, Washington University in St. Louis, and the Yale Writers’ Conference, and he lives in New York. Read More