WINNER OF THE 2019 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
‘Will leave you shaken to your very core’ Cosmopolitan
NAMED A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2019 by Buzzfeed, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, Electric Literature, The Millions, PopSugar, Philadelphia Inquirer, Publisher’s Weekly, Lit Hub, Bustle and Huffington Post
Sarah and David are in love – the obsessive, uncertain love of teenagers on the edge of adulthood. They have just started their first term at a performing arts school, where the rules are made by their magnetic drama instructor Mr Kingsley, who initiates them into a dangerous game. Two decades on we learn that the real story of these teenagers’ lives is even larger and darker than we imagined, and the consequences have lasted a lifetime. Trust Exercise is a brilliant, unforgettable novel about what we lose, gain and never get over as we’re initiated into adulthood’s mysterious structures of sex and power.
Trust Exercise is Choi's fifth novel, and without a doubt her most ingenious yet. Sure, submitting to it is a "trust exercise" all of its own, but the razzmatazz that awaits is well worth it. -- Lucy Scholes * FT * The author uses language brilliantly ... She is an astute, forensic cartographer of human nature; her characters are both sympathetic and appalling. In the end, hers is a tale of missed connection and manipulation - and of willing surrender to the lure and peril of the unknown. * Economist * Trust Exercise takes the issues raised by #MeToo and shows them as inextricable from more universal questions about taking a major role in someone else's life, while knowing that we're offering only a minor part in return ... There's a kind of gradual Brechtian exposing of workings that allows the story to be simultaneously true and made up: Choi's achievement is to do this while never seeming self-consciously tricksy ... Choi does so with consummate wit, punchiness and feeling, and in the process shows how much we need our female novelists within the sea change of our current moment. -- Lara Feigel * Guardian * Powerful, addictive, smart * ELLE * At a performing-arts school, the passion and estrangement of two teens becomes high drama. Choi captures this awkward, vulnerable stage perfectly - the shifts in peer loyalty, the perilous allure of adults ... The literary mischief enhances Choi's dissection of unreliable narrators, people and memories. Dazzling -- Jeffrey Burke * Mail on Sunday * Dense with a dangerous emotional intensity that Choi expertly conveys ... deadly serious in her pursuit of timely, MeToo-era themes including the misuse of power and the effects of abuse. Taut, distinctive and deeply unsettling -- Stephanie Cross * Daily Mail * Super smart ... Landing at a time when the sexual ethics of past decades are being scrutinised anew, this is a demanding narrative trip-wired with ambiguity about memory, ownership and storytelling itself -- Anthony Cummins * Metro * Choi writes about teenage obsession well, capturing the mayfly life span of young friendships and alliances. She successfully exhorts the reader to remember the expansiveness of adolescence * Sunday Times * Smart and intellectually compelling * Bookmunch * 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. * New Yorker * This psychologically acute novel enlists your heart as well as your mind. Zing will go certain taut strings in your chest ... a devastatingly apt analysis of what men have gotten away with * The New York Times * The sort of page-turning metafiction that readers love to argue about ... an astonishing whirling dervish of a story * Vulture * As soon as I finished . . . [I was] desperate to talk about the novel with anyone else who'd read it. A startling, perplexing, fascinating book by a writer I've long been - and will always be - eager to read. -- R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries To partake in Choi's 'trust exercise' is to watch her stretch the boundaries of the mimetic frame and create an unsettling experiment in perception ... Choi creates a disturbing and complex inquiry into the various forms coercion can take * Paris Review Staff Pick * A brilliant, destabilizing work, and with every unexpected shift and added layer, the novel expands the possibilities of what fiction can do * Electric Literature * This is a very serious book about a human experience and what goes on inside people's heads and hearts. She deserves a much larger readership. -- Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend I can't remember the last time I had such a visceral reaction to a book, or was so dazzled by a writer's inventiveness with structure. Susan Choi is a master and Trust Exercise should be on every human's reading list. A perfect knockout, with profound things to say about art-making, adolescence, and consent. -- Julie Buntin What a wickedly clever, formally inventive book Trust Exercise is. I was blown away by Susan Choi's literary vision, not to mention her sensitivity and wit. -- Jami Attenberg Trust Exercise is a brilliant and challenging novel, an uncanny evocation of the not-so-distant past that turns into a meditation on the slipperiness of memory and the ethics of storytelling. Susan Choi is a masterful novelist, who understands exactly where we are right now and how we got here. -- Tom Perrotta This is the most precise skewering of a magnetic teacher since Muriel Spark's 1961 classic. Choi's voice blends an adolescent's awe with an adult's irony. It's a letter-perfect satire of the special strain of egotism and obsession that can fester in academic settings ... As you'll learn, she's a master of emotional pacing: the sudden revelation, the unexpected attack. She's equally astute at portraying the exaggerated passions of teenage life and the way that youthful energy warps the fabric of reality ... How cunningly this novel considers the way teenage sexuality is experienced, manipulated and remembered. And no one writes about erotic misadventures with more vicious humor than Choi. ... Committing time and attention to a novel is always a trust exercise. This author never takes you where you thought you were going, but have faith: You won't be disappointed. * Washington Post * An ingenious, morally complex exploration of how our youthful entanglements, cruelties, and traumas shape the rest of our lives. Choi's writing is dazzling in its control and precision; this witty, sharp, unsettling novel grabs you and won't let you go. -- Dana Spiotta This novel is a work of genius and should be a future classic. It has the most audacious narrative shift I've read since John Fowles's The Collector. Plus, it includes the phrase 'a virtuoso feeling-state lasagna. -- Gabe Habash Choi has been writing novels for 20 years, but Trust Exercise, her mind-bending new book, is her best shot at joining the pantheon of authors whose faces are mounted on walls and recognized at the door. It is the sort of page-turning metafiction that readers love to argue about - a Gen-X bildungsroman that speaks to younger generations, a Russian nesting doll of unreliable narrators, and a slippery #MeToo puzzle-box about the fallibility of memory. -- Hillary Kelly * Vulture * Choi's superb, powerful fifth novel marries exquisite craft with topical urgency ... Fiercely intelligent, impeccably written, and observed with searing insight, this novel is destined to be a classic * Publishers Weekly starred review * A truly innovative novel ... forces the audience to question everything they think they know about memory and how it's stored * Shelf Awareness * An effective interrogation of memory, the impossible gulf between accuracy and the stories we tell ... the writing (exquisite) and the observations (cuttingly accurate) make Choi's latest both wrenching and one-of-a-kind. Never sentimental; always thrillingly alive * Starred Kirkus review * Brilliantly embodies the conundrum of the fiction writer who draws from life and questions whether we can ever really trust what we see, let alone what we remember ... a stunning example of a writer stretching and perfecting her craft. * Bookreporter * The best novels make you forget the outside world. And Susan Choi, a master novelist, takes advantage of her prose's magnetic qualities - just as she's established the rules of her narrative, she puppet-masters and shifts into an entirely new book * Refinery29 * ...Will leave you shaken to your very core. Never have I ever encountered a narrative twist that caused me to question everything I'd just read, so prepare yourself accordingly. * Cosmopolitan * '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 * Compulsively readable and formally brilliant: this is basically a literary unicorn. * Lit Hub * As readers we find ourselves doubting everything we previously took as fact. It's dark, evocative, and fun. * Buzzfeed * Fans of experimental plot structure will find much to love in [this] spellbinding new novel. * Elle * Destabilizing ... gets at questions of truth and fiction in a way that feels, this year, particularly relevant. * Vanity Fair * Bold ... There's no shortage of insight in this novel. Or pathos. * Bookforum * A remarkable novel with a narrative twist that will knock you out. * Bustle * This twisty novel . . . seems a straightforward enough story - until the roller-coaster second half makes you doubt everything that came before. * Marie Claire * ... If you were ever in a school play or have thought about how telling your story inevitably tramples all over someone else's story, this is a must read. -- Emily Gould Trust Exercise is surely a mosaic of deceit, fused from narrative bits, calling into question the reader's quaint notion of trust in an author. -- LitHub * Hamilton Cain * Susan Choi's novel Trust Exercise is an alchemical work that blends truth and art into a heady, addictive brew * Atlantic * A Russian doll of a novel: a tricky, clever and ultimately delightful set of narratives tucked inside one another in a complex take on truth and art, and the grey area in between. -- Francesca Carington * The Telegraph * A luminous novel ... The reward of Trust Exercise is the way in which this novel asks to be read: not necessarily with suspicion, but with attention to the process of sorting significant from insignificant details; * The Nation * The title of this tricksy, beguiling novel, winner of a National Book Award, refers to the relationship between writer and reader, as well as to the bonding exercises undertaken by the theatre students in the story- and to the trust between teenage girls and predatory men. A tale of missed connections and manipulation, and of willing surrender to the lure and peril of the unknown -- Books of the Year * The Economist *
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