Susan Choi's work of literary wonder really does defy too much description - the pleasure is in the unfolding, the unpacking - both within the insular, overwrought stewpot that is an elite performing arts high school and its adolescence, a melodramatic microcosm of humanity in itself, and the shifting perspectives that arrive in the second act as the students become adults and the truth becomes ever more dynamic.— Melinda
I choose Trust Exercise as my favorite book of 2019 because I just can't stop thinking about it, marveling at it, and wanting to read it again. From its craft to its genius, its heart to its complexity, its honesty, its truthfulness--there is just so much to appreciate, consider, and love.— Melinda
It’s all in the title: Susan Choi takes the unreliable narrator to the next level in this book, challenging the reader to suspend all judgment and hang on for the ride. Trust Exercise examines perspective and character in a whole new way, leaving the reader to wonder at the end just what, exactly, they’ve been through. As in life, more questions are generated than answers. A great book to awaken your mind to the possibilities of fiction!— Jess
“Set inside the acting program of an elite high school, Choi’s novel seems to consider every major preoccupation of our moment — class, gender, sexuality, race, power, predation, authenticity, ‘genius’ — with language that’s both uproarious and frothing with vital rage. To describe the plot in any detail, though, would reveal too much of Trust Exercise’s inventive, audacious form. Best let this novel sink into your bones with as few spoilers as possible before its final scene seizes your heart. And it will seize your heart. Trust me.”
— Samuel Krowchenko, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI
“A psychological masterclass. I can think of no better place to dissect how micro actions toward each other suggest macro feelings than a famous arts high school where emotions, power dynamics, and naivete mascarading as bravado are at their peak and ever shifting. Many have said, and I will too, that you have to read this one knowing as little as possible about what to expect. All I’ll say is that it left me with a potent emotion spurred by a slowly revealed truth, not just about the characters but about our world, and Susan Choi is a genius.”
— Molly Moore, BookPeople, Austin, TX
WINNER OF THE 2019 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION
“Electrifying” (People) • “Masterly” (The Guardian) • “Dramatic and memorable” (The New Yorker) • “Magic” (TIME) • “Ingenious” (The Financial Times) • "A gonzo literary performance” (Entertainment Weekly) • “Rare and splendid” (The Boston Globe) • “Remarkable” (USA Today) • “Delicious” (The New York Times) • “Book groups, meet your next selection" (NPR)
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 listeners with wiser understandings of the true capacities of adolescents and of the powers and responsibilities of adults.