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The Best of Youth: A Novel Hardcover – January 28, 2013
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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Dahlie spins a strange tale of a sensitive and bright but naive young man who is drifting in life. After his parents’ untimely death, Henry Lang inherits $15 million. Financially set, Henry struggles with social and romantic interactions. He is a writer, trying to live an ideal young person’s life in New York City, but things aren’t quite falling into place for him. Henry’s naïveté gets him into a few unfortunate but amusing scenes, one with some extremely costly goats and another involving transportation of firearms. These lighter events are counterbalanced by the quiet depression that permeates the first half of the novel. The pace of the story picks up substantially in the second half, as Henry contracts to ghostwrite a young-adult novel for an unstable, drug-addicted actor. This peculiar partnership sets in motion a series of calamitous events that ultimately push Henry into action. Along the way, Dahlie offers a biting take on the motivations of some authors entering the young-adult field. --Eve Gaus
“The Best of Youth is what Jane Austen would write if she were here, now, inhabiting a brilliant, self-conscious young writer who'd just been orphaned and inherited 15 million dollars. This witty, romantic, and irresistible story is a surefire antidote to anyone's modern malaise.”
- Hillary Jordan, author of When She Woke
“I raced through Michael Dahlie's The Best of Youth, which tumbles headlong through the calamities of a hapless young Brooklynite―it's funny, moving, and genially moral, a cautionary tale about inherited wealth and a deadpan comic novel about growing up.”
- Maile Meloy, author of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It
“Seriously funny. Intensely human. Reminds us that we can be fallible―even ridiculous―and still manage to find dignity, goodness, and courage deep down inside. I loved this book.”
- Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook
“Michael Dahlie writes the way Cary Grant used to act, that is, with a seeming effortlessness and grace that is truly maddening to those of us who know how difficult it is. The Best of Youth, his fine new novel, is another infuriating case in point.”
- Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls
“Can a person be too good-natured for his own good? This is the question Michael Dahlie asks in The Best of Youth, his sly, thoroughly engaging novel about love, literature, and the strange ways of Brooklyn hipsters. Dahlie is a wonderful writer, with a keen eye for the ridiculous and a deep affection for his well-intentioned but sometimes clueless protagonist.”
- Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children
“[A] lovable, feel-good novel.”
- Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
Top customer reviews
At this point I was very ready to throw the book against the wall and curse and gnash my teeth. This guy's father had said he was a solidly good and kind person, and Henry is that. But he is so misguided, so hapless, and so passive that I wanted to scream at him. He possesses a Harvard education and millions of dollars but seems to spend his days aimlessly trying to decode the hipster life in which he lives. But he is crippled by his incessant self consciousness that keeps him from learning anything of substance from other people and their problems.
So my spineless rule is to finish the book. And despite my despair when Henry contracts to ghost write a book for a famous actor, I kept reading. And I grew to kind of like Henry. He seems to grow up some. He begins to actually see the people
with whom he interacts. He finds a niche where he belongs. I won't do a spoiler here, but the changes do come with his successfully becoming aware of his own and other peoples' intent.
I think Henry is also the kind of guy who would always be with you. I don't know how to handle the assignment of stars. The beginning of this book is truly annoying. But the second half wouldn't mean much without the aimlessness of this first half. In the end, I think this is worth a try. The cultural references are entertaining and insightful. The famous book for whom he ghost writes is vivid enough to tempt one to mull over possible real life candidates. So read it and see what you think.
He seems to get involved in some strange situations. For instance, when he agrees to care for some rare and unusual goats, he makes a bad judgment call and the owner of the goats never forgives him!
Henry enjoys writing and has had some success in that field. When he's approached by an agent to be a ghostwriter to a famous person, he's not really crazy about the idea, but agrees to do it! He has to sign all kinds of contracts saying that he won't reveal that he wrote the story. Henry is a very likeable character, but as the reader, I wanted to shake him, and not allow people to take advantage of him.
Just thinking, a movie about Henry Lang, would be fun to see!