Pulitzer finalist Susan Choi's multi-part, narrative-upending novel, in which "the long reverberations of adolescent experience, the complexities of consent and coercion, and the inherent unreliability of narratives... are timeless and resonant." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
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, 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.
Praise for Trust Exercise
Named a most anticipated book of 2019 by Buzzfeed, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, Electric Literature, The Millions, PopSugar, The Philadelphia Inquirer, PW, Lit Hub, Bustle, and The Huffington Post
"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
“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)
“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)
“[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.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“Compulsively readable and formally brilliant: this is basically a literary unicorn.”
“Choi’s newest mind-bender of a novel . . . spins out in entirely unexpected directions”
“Through Choi’s inventive storytelling, [the romance between two high school students] and its aftermath acts as the nexus in a sprawling story of adolescence, loyalty, truth, and fiction.”
“[A] remarkable novel with a narrative twist that will knock you out.”
"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
“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