Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $4.97 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $4.99 shipping
Trust Exercise: A Novel Hardcover – April 9, 2019
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Book recommendations, author interviews, editors' picks, and more. Read it now
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
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.”
“Masterly. . . . [Choi has] taken the issues raised by #MeToo and shown 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. . . . With consummate wit, punchiness and feeling, [Choi] shows how much we need our female novelists within the sea change of our current moment.”
“An elaborate trick; [Trust Exercise] is a meta work of construction and deconstruction, building a persuasive fictional world and then showing you the girders, the scaffolding underneath, and how it’s all been welded together. It’s also a work that lives in the gray area between art and reality: the space where alchemy happens.”
“Book groups, meet your next selection. . . . Trust Exercise is fiction that contains multiple truths and lies. Working with such common material, Choi has produced something uncommonly thought-provoking.”
“Electrifying. . . . [A] story that cuts to the heart of gender politics and the teacher-student dynamic.”
“A gonzo literary performance one could mistake for a magic trick, duping its readers with glee before leaving them impossibly moved. . . . Facts are debated in Trust Exercise, yes, but Choi always tells the truth.”
“In her masterful, twisty [novel], Susan Choi upgrades the familiar coming-of-age story with remarkable command . . . [displaying her] talent for taking ineffable emotions and giving them an oaken solidity. . . . So many books and films present teenage years as a passing phase, a hormonal storm that passes in time. Choi, in this witty and resonant novel, thinks of it more like an earthquake―a rupture that damages our internal foundations and can require years to repair.”
“A twisting feat of storytelling. . . . [Choi] uses language brilliantly. . . . She is an astute, forensic cartographer of human nature; her characters are both sympathetic and appalling. In the end, [Trust Exercise] is a tale of missed connection and manipulation―and of willing surrender to the lure and peril of the unknown.”
“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. . . . [Choi is] a master of emotional pacing: the sudden revelation, the unexpected attack. . . . How cunningly this novel considers the way teenage sexuality is experienced, manipulated, and remembered. . . . The result is a dramatic exploration of the distorting forces of memory, envy, and art. . . . You won’t be disappointed.”
―The Washington Post
“Compulsively readable and formally brilliant: this is basically a literary unicorn.”
“Sharp, willy. . . . Trust Exercise busts out of its coming-of-age shell and becomes a stranger and far more marvelous creature.”
“Choi, a master novelist, takes advantage of her prose’s magnetic qualities. . . . Kaleidoscopic. . . . Prepare for an ending that will make you question everything.”
“A rare and splendid literary creature: piercingly intelligent, engrossingly entertaining, and so masterfully intricate that only after you finish it, stunned, can you step back and marvel.”
―The Boston Globe
“[As readers] we find ourselves doubting everything we previously took as fact. It’s dark, evocative, and fun.”
"A Russian doll of a novel. . . [A] clever and ultimately delightful set of narratives tucked inside on another in a complex take on truth and art, and the grey area in between."
―The Telegraph (UK)
“Choi captures this awkward, vulnerable stage [of maturity] perfectly―the shifts in peer loyalty, the perilous allure of adults. . . . Dazzling.”
―The Mail on Sunday (UK)
“One of the most insightful commentaries on life in the #MeToo era.”
“A fun twisty treat. . . . You’ll definitely want to read with a friend to trade reactions and hot takes.”
“A punchy, hotly anticipated novel. . . . Strap in for a wild ride.”
―Town & Country
“Fresh, nuanced. . . . Choi writes passages of real beauty, some of which stumble forth raw and unformed, fragments and observations that double back, accreting. Other times she deploys descriptions that feel more planned out and note perfect.”
"Fans of experimental plot structure will find much to love in [this] spellbinding new novel."
“A feat. . . . [Trust Exercise] is bold. . . . There is innuendo and insinuation and a hint of sinister. . . . In the end, there’s no shortage of insight in this novel. Or pathos.”
“[A] remarkable novel with a narrative twist that will knock you out.”
“Gets at questions of truth and fiction in a way that feels, this year, particularly relevant.”
“Never have I ever encountered a narrative twist that caused me to question everything I’d just read.”
"Explosive. . . . [Trust Exercise] will linger long after the book ends."
"This twisty novel . . . seems a straightforward enough story―until the roller-coaster second half makes you doubt everything that came before."
“Immerses the reader in the suffocating hothouse atmosphere of a 1980s performing arts high school and all the intense drama, heartbreak, and scandal many remember from their teen years.”
―Los Angeles Times
“Riveting. . . . [Trust Exercise] will surely become a favorite with book clubs.”
“A book you will very much want to discuss with other readers.”
"Superb, powerful . . . Choi’s themes―among them the long reverberations of adolescent experience, the complexities of consent and coercion, and the inherent unreliability of narratives―are timeless and resonant. Fiercely intelligent, impeccably written, and observed with searing insight, this novel is destined to be a classic."
―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"What begins as the story of obsessive first love between drama students at a competitive performing arts high school in the early 1980s twists into something much darker in Choi's singular new novel . . . 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."
―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[Choi’s] finest novel. . . . Trust Exercise should immediately put readers on alert . . . exposing tenuous connections between fiction, truth, lies, and, of course, people. Literary deception rarely reads this well.”
―Booklist (starred review)
“Choi toys with our trust but it pays off in dividends. . . . Trust us.”
“Brilliant. . . . Trust Exercise deftly shifts time and perspective, and teen drama becomes a dark, edgy exploration of boundaries between coercion and consent, theater and reality, charisma and manipulation, and student and teacher.”
―The National Book Review
"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, National Book Award-nominated author of Eat the Document and Innocents and Others
"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, author of Marlena
"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, author of Stephen Florida
"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, New York Times bestselling author of All Grown Up and The Middlesteins
“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
"Packed with the kind of shrewd psychological insights that make you sit up straighter, Trust Exercise is a frequently brilliant novel that draws you in slowly and carefully and then becomes increasingly hard to put down. I don't want to give too much away, so all I'll say is that the book is full of twists that are thrilling without being manipulative or melodramatic. I am sure I am far from the only one who had to put aside everything else while I raced to the end."
―Adelle Waldman, nationally bestselling author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
"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, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Fletcher, The Leftovers, Little Children, and Election
About the Author
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I kept reading and reading, thinking I'd start caring about one or more of the characters. I never did. It was a waste of time. I read all the way to the end, and it got worse and worse.
However, I was so turned off by the self-conscious writing style and distant narration I quit reading on page 8. Here's the line that made me drop the book - for context, two teenagers are making out:
"He realized with a shock that it needn't be thus."
Done, but I rated this two stars because I can see how others might not mind being so distant from the characters or have writing this stilted.
On the plus side, I'm impressed that the author provided something new with this book. It's difficult to find experimental formats that work, and it's even harder to write them. I was surprised by the changes in format and didn't really see them coming. Choi's writing is crisp - she doesn't waste words - and she sets scenes up well. I had a clear picture in my mind of the school and the theater. She hits the right notes with the time setting (the early 80s) and her descriptions of the clothes the teenagers wear fit in with that time period. I'll also note that while Choi does not specifically name the large southern city in which the book was set, I'm pretty sure I know what city it is supposed to be or resemble, and the descriptions are stunningly on point.
On the negative side, I feel that to really enjoy a book like this, you have to be invested in the characters. Most of the characters are fairly unlikeable, and while it's definitely not a requirement to like a character in order to enjoy a book, a reader still needs to be invested or engaged with them in some format. I just couldn't get there with these characters. I did not like or have a lot of sympathy for Sarah, even for some of her hardships which were likely designed to elicit sympathy from the reader, and the rest of the characters weren't much better. I felt like I had to push myself through the first 200 pages of the book and it wasn't until after that point that I felt more invested - and given that the book only has a little over 250 pages, it would have been beneficial to be engaged before that point. Furthermore, even at the end, I wasn't entirely satisfied. I thought that the story would redeem itself then - and to some point it does - but I definitely still had questions after finishing reading. This might be partially the fault of the book's summary, as it states that the final piece of the puzzle falls into place and truths will be revealed, but it's also entirely possible I'm missing something.
Overall, this one will definitely get mixed reviews. I suspect some people will give up about 50 pages into it, some people will be in the middle like me, and some people will absolutely love it. I know that after it's released, I'll be looking for discussions and forums on the internet to see what others thought and if there were meanings that I missed. One final piece of advice - don't pick this one up for a time when you need a book to get through quickly. Although I read it in about two days, I wondered if reading it at a slower speed would have been more beneficial.
Trust Exercise is going to be a hard book to review without spoilers (but I shall attempt). So much of what makes it great is in the surprises you get along the way as a reader. So you’re just going to have to trust me when I tell you that this book was really, really good.
One thing to know: The prose in this book is like poetry. It’s like music. It’s breathtaking and poignant and takes you on an emotional trip. If you love to read prose like that, then this book is absolutely for you. But if that kind of musical, somewhat flowery prose isn’t your style, no big; this one might not be for you.
The book opens from the almost-constant perspective of Sarah, a 15-year-old girl who attends a local high school for performing arts students. She and David have passionate summer love affair. But when they get back to school in the fall, their own inherent differences and the constant teenage-mixed-with-competitive-acting-class drama … splinters things. Sarah doesn’t quite know what happened and yet also knows full well what happened, and that’s pretty much how she lives her life.
I wish I could tell you more, but it really would spoil it, so I’m going to stop there. But the dust jacket does a good job with this description: “A shocking spiral of events catapults the action forward in time and flips the premise upside-down.”
I will say this: The book doesn’t read as though a teenager is narrating it. I have read some reviews that say the characters are just not believable as teenagers, but I kind of think that’s the point. Who among us hasn’t looked back at our teenage selves and thought, “Wow, if I had only known then what I know now.” or “Yeah at the time, I thought X, or I thought that I knew everything about Y, but wow, I was so wrong.” That’s what this narrative does. It gives us a bird’s-eye, more adult view of what these characters are thinking, feeling, and doing. Which is a whole thing in and of itself.
Here are some words from the book’s description that might seem overused, but could not be more true about this book: “Narrative-upending.” “Truths that will resonate long after the final sentence.” “Captivating.” “Tender.” “Surprising.”