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Trust Exercise
Cover of Trust Exercise
Trust Exercise
A Novel
Borrow Borrow Borrow

WINNER OF THE 2019 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

"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, Susan Choi's 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.

  • WINNER OF THE 2019 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION

    NATIONAL BESTSELLER

    "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, Susan Choi's 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.

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    Awards-
    About the Author-
    • Susan Choi is the author of the novels My Education, American Woman, A Person of Interest, and The Foreign Student. Her work has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award and winner of the PEN/W.G. Sebald Award and the Asian-American Literary Award for fiction. With David Remnick, she co-edited Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker. She lives in Brooklyn.
    Reviews-
    • Kirkus

      Starred review from January 1, 2019
      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.The summer between their freshman and sophomore years at the Citywide Academy for the Performing Arts--an elite institution "intended to cream off the most talented at selected pursuits from the regular places all over the [unnamed Southern] city" where they lived--Sarah and David consummate the romance that had been brewing the whole previous year. It is the natural culmination of the "taut, even dangerous energy running between them," which--while naturally occurring--has been fostered by Mr. Kingsley, the head of Theatre Arts, who has positioned himself as the central figure in his students' lives, holding power not only over their professional futures, but their social ones as well: part parent, part guru, part master manipulator. But when Sarah and David return in the fall, their relationship instantly crumbles, and in the wake of their very public dissolution, Sarah finds herself increasingly isolated, dismissed into the shadows of CAPA life. Until, that spring, a British theater troupe comes to campus as part of a cultural exchange, and Sarah, along with her classmate Karen, begin parallel relationships with the English imports: Karen is in love with the director, and Sarah is uncomfortably linked to his protégé, the production's star. It is, until now, a straightforward story, capturing--with nauseating, addictive accuracy--the particular power dynamics of elite theater training. And then, in the second part of the novel, Pulitzer finalist Choi (My Education, 2013, etc.) upends everything we thought we knew, calling the truth of the original narrative into question. (A short coda, set in 2013, recasts it again.) This could easily be insufferable; in Choi's hands, it works: an effective interrogation of memory, the impossible gulf between accuracy and the stories we tell. And yet, as rigorous and as clever and as relevant as it is, the second half of the novel never quite reaches the soaring heights of the first. It's hardly a deal breaker: the writing (exquisite) and the observations (cuttingly accurate) make Choi's latest both wrenching and one-of-a-kind.Never sentimental; always thrillingly alive.

      COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

    • Booklist

      Starred review from February 15, 2019
      That whole thing about fiction not being the truth is a lie, one character admonishes another in Choi's fifth, and finest, novel. Returning to the multilayered teacher-student power struggles seared into My Education (2013), Choi's Trust Exercise should immediately put readers on alert: it will appear four times as a title?of the novel itself and as the repeated title of the book's three sections. Despite being a reference to a soul-baring acting exercise, trust will have little correlation to truth. Trust Exercise number one introduces Sarah and David, two 15-year-old students at a suburban performing-arts high school, precariously entangled with each other, overseen (manipulated) by their magnetic theater teacher, Mr. Kingsley. Trust Exercise number two picks up 14 years later, after more than 100 pages, revealing number one to be a large portion of Sarah's newly published novel, and its last page is where Sarah's former best friend, Karen, stopped reading. What happened (or not) thus far gets deconstructed, then expanded, culminating in a series of dramatically (of course) orchestrated reunions. Trust Exercise number three will render all that came before unreliable while exposing tenuous connections between fiction, truth, lies, and, of course, people. Literary deception rarely reads this well.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

    • Library Journal

      In the first half of this latest novel from Choi (My Education), Sarah is studying at a performing arts high school in the 1980s. Owing to adolescent miscommunication, her summer romance with fellow student David crumbles once school resumes in the fall. Drama teacher Mr. Kingsley takes his students through acting exercises that seem to cross boundaries of appropriateness, particularly when involving teenagers with raging hormones and volatile emotions. A visiting theater troupe from England adds to the chaos, which has repercussions decades later. The novel's second section takes a somewhat metafictional approach, as "Karen," a minor character in the first half, objects to the fictional approach taken by "Sarah" in recounting the events in her novel. Throughout, Choi neither sentimentalizes nor trivializes the emotional lives of the teens. Whether by design or chance, the first half of the novel feels "truer" than the more contrived plot machinations of the second half, in which several characters reencounter one another during a play production a decade later. The latter, retrospective approach serves best in examining the confusion and ambiguity of teenage sexuality and how that can be exploited. VERDICT Recommended for readers who invite direct challenges to the novelistic form. [See Prepub Alert, 10/29/18.]--Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis

      Copyright 1 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

    • Newsday "A book you will very much want to discuss with other readers."
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      Henry Holt and Co.
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