Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi
In an American suburb in the early 1980s, students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive in a rarified bubble, ambitiously pursuing music, movement, Shakespeare, and, particularly, their acting classes. When within this striving “Brotherhood of the Arts,” two freshmen, David and Sarah, fall headlong into love, their passion does not go unnoticed―or untoyed with―by anyone, especially not by their charismatic acting teacher, Mr. Kingsley.
The outside world of family life and economic status, of academic pressure and of their future adult lives, fails to penetrate this school’s walls―until it does, in a shocking spiral of events that catapults the action forward in time and flips the premise upside-down. What the reader believes to have happened to David and Sarah and their friends is not entirely true―though it’s not false, either. It takes until the book’s stunning coda for the final piece of the puzzle to fall into place―revealing truths that will resonate long after the final sentence.
As captivating and tender as it is surprising, Susan Choi's Trust Exercise will incite heated conversations about fiction and truth, and about friendships and loyalties, and will leave readers with wiser understandings of the true capacities of adolescents and of the powers and responsibilities of adults.
WINNER OF THE 2019 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION
NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2019 by The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Times, ELLE, Bustle, Town & Country, Publishers Weekly, The Millions, The Chicago Tribune, and TIME
“Mind-bending. . . . A Gen-X bildungsroman that speaks to young generations, a Russian nesting doll of unreliable narrators, and a slippery #MeToo puzzle-box about the fallibility of memory. . . . [Trust Exercise is] a perfectly stitched together Frankenstein’s monster of narrative introspection and ambiguity. . . . It flexes its own meta-existence―as a novel about the manipulation inherent in any kind of narrative―brilliantly.”
―New York Magazine
“[Trust Exercise] burns more brightly than anything [Choi’s] yet written. This psychologically acute novel enlists your heart as well as your mind. Zing will go certain taut strings in your chest. . . . Choi builds her novel carefully, but it is packed with wild moments of grace and fear and abandon. . . . [A] delicious and, in its way, rather delicate . . . phosphorescent examination of sexual consent.”
―The New York Times
“An intelligent and layered portrait of a school’s legacy. . . . [Trust Exercise] makes something dramatic and memorable from the simple elements of a teen movie.”
―The New Yorker
“Perhaps the best [novel] this year. . . . [Trust Exercise] begins as an enthralling tale of teenage romance and then turns into a meticulously plotted interrogation of the state of the novel itself. . . . Read it once for pleasure, and then again to turn up all the brilliant Easter eggs.”
“Ingenious. . . . Choi’s prose is damp with tears and sweat, bruised with hurt and lust, sprinkled with sugar, salt, and e-numbers. Hormones practically drip off the page. . . . [But] then, suddenly and without warning, Choi executives a bravura bait-and-switch. . . . Sure, submitting to it is a ‘trust exercise’ all of its own, but the razzmatazz that awaits is well worth it.”
―The Financial Times
“Magic. . . . This mind-bending book is worth the wait as Choi challenges readers to consider the boundaries between fiction and reality.”
Paperback, May 5, 2020