Trust Exercise

Trust Exercise

A Novel

Book - 2019
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In 1982 in a southern city, David and Sarah, two freshmen at a highly competitive performing arts high school, thrive alongside their school peers in a rarified bubble, ambitiously devoting themselves to their studies--to music, to movement, to Shakespeare and, particularly, to classes taught by the magnetic acting teacher Mr. Kingsley. It is here in these halls that David and Sarah fall innocently and powerfully into first love. And also where, as this class of students rises through the ranks of high school, the outside world of family life and economic status, of academic pressure and the future, does not affect them--until it does--in a sudden spiral of events.
Publisher: New York : Henry Holt and Company, 2019
Edition: First Edition
ISBN: 9781250309884
1250309883
Branch Call Number: FIC CHOI 2019
Characteristics: 257 pages : 24 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

What begins as the story of obsessive first love between drama students at a competitive performing arts high school in the 1980s twists into something much darker.


From the critics


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LPL_MaryW Aug 29, 2020

Incredible experimental fiction, as sharp as the crack of a whip. A knockout.

a
Anita_Dickey
Aug 07, 2020

Horrible book. i read this book to fulfill the goal read a book that read in award in 2019. It was awful. absolutely awful. I repeat this is probably one of the worst books i have ever read. Obviously since it did win an award there will be people who disagree with me, but this is my opinion.

r
readonandon
Mar 14, 2020

Barack Obama recommendation

a
abcedmillered
Mar 04, 2020

This is not a comfortable read. It's salacious. For me, I struggled with nostalgia throughout. The author pinpoints the exact feelings and experiences of high school theatre (down to the RE). It's a challenging read; you will have to put pieces together. It's worth reading if you're still interested after reading reviews.

t
taylor_cheers
Feb 19, 2020

I actually really disliked this book, I was excited to read it because I saw it on a lot of year end lists, but was put off by the vulgar language especially to describe the actions of teenagers. I am by no means a prude, but just thought it was a bit inappropriate and it put me off to the point where I didn't even want to finish the book.

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GreenDog2006
Feb 13, 2020

With the lavish reviews, the National Book Award and the hints at twists and suprises, I REALLY wanted to like this book...but I couldn't get past the first 20 pages. I didn't like the characters, there was no plot to speak of, and, most of all, the writing style struck me as overblown and pretentious - laudable in a 1-page poem, but exhausting in a novel. It's only got 3 stars on Amazon, and a lot of the reviewers there said it was definitely a "love it or hate it" book. After i hit 60 years old, I embraced Nancy Pearl's principle of not spending time on a book that doesn't grab me within the first chapter or so. Too many books, too little time!

j
jessibfoz
Jan 26, 2020

I was okay with the first section. The writing was kind of exciting and witty and I thought well now here's what I wanted from Normal People and even Fates and Furies. Where the former felt kind of an obvious and simplistic teenage romance, this seemed a little offbeat and made great observations; and unlike the latter, has intricate writing but doesn't suffer the 'purple prose' problem. Choi takes these teenagers who attend a specific performing arts school in the south very seriously. Their feelings and the time and the stretch of adolescence is vivid. You take them serious, you forget they're fifteen going on sixteen. Until adults betray their trust, and their actions betray their age and the horror is there when you remember they're little kids. Choi's narration jumps around about here but generally it's well presented. But then there is another section, a gear change. Lots of people felt betrayed or frustrated by this but I don't think that's what I feel. It's just that the book as a whole lost me. It got boring and clinical. I've studied literature and I think I'm a close enough reader; I don't think it's because I didn't 'get' enough to enjoy it: Regardless of the falseness of the stories they all share a certain truth--Karen said that, didn't she, about being over the foolish idea that fiction isn't true. It's like the three stories are a babushka, and we awake from each with truthful refrains about men and power and creativity. But it almost seems too clever. This stylish trick of Choi's is disinterested in the craft of engaging the reader, in favour of the points it wants to make.

n
njon38
Jan 25, 2020

– this book was not for me. High school students at an exclusive arts high school their interaction with each other and with faculty one of which results is a pregnancy. Plays on the theme of the unreliable narrator.

w
WoodneathKristie
Jan 14, 2020

The problem with "Trust Exercise" is less in the story, or in the storytelling, and more in the expectations the synopsis and discussion around the book creates for the reader. Sold as a story of "varying memories", a tale told by an unreliable narrator, or simply an abstract and unconventionally formatted novel, "Trust Exercise" is none of the above. There are some spoilers below, but they might contribute to your enjoyment of the book if you know what to expect as you read.

The first part of the story, as we find out later, is actually "Sarah's" work of fiction, based on her own high school experience. As a work of fiction (within a work of fiction), it is NOT a "misremembered past" or even a different perspective on past events. It is Sarah's distillation of events and themes, reworked in a fictional narrative. The second part of the book, "Karen's" narrative, is her reaction to Sarah's book, her portrayal in it, and her subsequent attempts to reconnect with Sarah and others from her school days in an attempt to seek revenge/closure .

This second part of the story, where Karen first encounters Sarah, then recounts what happened when she was reunited with a teacher/lover/abuser from her past in a play directed by another of her old high school classmates and attended by Sarah, feels much more like unreliable narrator territory, but we never really know, as that part of the book is cut off abruptly, and we are left with a brief coda, set at some point after the second part, that brings together who we think is the true inspiration for the teacher in Sarah's book, and the possible love child of Karen and her abuser. All of these disparate parts DO fit together, if tangentially, and we do see a classic build/climax/resolution structure, even if the end leaves us with unprocessed questions and emotions.

If read with the above outline in mind, the book is actually a dreamy, almost ethereal meditation on several distinct, but entwined issues: the deterioration of nuclear families in a society that refuses to equip children for such possibilities; the abusive potential of the rarefied atmosphere of elite schools; sexual abuse; manipulation; and first love. I use the word "meditation" very deliberately, because it offers no solutions, no answers- only questions, impressions, and a vague sense that we might be living our lives in the shadows of our own half-revelations.

What makes it good in my mind, and not truly great, is its steadfast insistence on holding all characters equally at arm's length throughout. Although I could identify with a great many of the thoughts and feelings given voice to by many of the characters, I could never really believe in their humanity. As a result, I could never identify with any of them as complex, fully-wrought people worthy of my care and consideration.

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ginny5cents
Dec 12, 2019

I found it a tedious read. I was unable to feel any sympathy for the characters, theater students dramatically experiencing everyday emotions and doing so badly whilst coming of age. Halfway through I couldn't wait to be done.

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