In this truly innovative novel--winner of the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction--Susan Choi challenges her characters--and readers--with an elaborate trust exercise set at a prestigious high school. Here, teens compete for roles both onstage and off, against the backdrop of 1980s Anytown, America. They envy their peers and idolize their drama teacher as they experience the life-shaping trials and tribulations of young adulthood. Readers are led along the propulsive narrative path, up the highest of highs and down the lowest of lows, then thrown off course when Choi twists Trust Exercise in unexpected, winding ways. Her inclusive approach to the stories of all the teens--rich, poor, stars and nobodies--traces their trajectories well into the future.
And it's that vast scope that forces the audience to question everything they think they know about memory and how it's stored. Including a complex examination of reality versus fantasy, Choi encourages readers to lay private memories next to the events of Trust Exercise, in order to compare the revelations of the plot with their own hard-earned insights into life. We at Shelf were early champions of this book and were excited to see it as a finalist for the National Book Award. --Jen Forbus