Skip to main content




Teddy Wayne’s new novel seems to take the form of many other books we’ve read before. His main character, David Federman, reads like a textbook American novel male lead. He is self-centered but has good intentions. He feels out of place and unhappy in a world that is seemingly made just for him. He’s Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, Kerouac’s Sal Paradise, Franzen’s Walter Berglund.But as Wayne unfolds David’s inner thoughts, it is clear that this loner is not like the others.

In the opening pages, David is relatable. He plays with words and a precocious vocabulary. He fantasizes about his new life at an Ivy League university. He laments the fact that his high school years were more boring than he would have liked. He is eager to leave the nest and try to become a person he’s proud of. He’s fun to read. But within the first short chapters, Wayne begins to flood the reader with cringeworthy thoughts from David.

"With each page, the stakes of David’s actions rise, and the reader is at times equally exhilarated and repulsed. LONER is a compulsive read from beginning to end."

David feels superior to many of his high school peers after his acceptance to Harvard. When he finds out that one of his classmates is also going to Harvard, it not only “came as a shock” but David reveals he had “always assumed he would grow up into the sort of druggie who fried his brain with pot while supplying it at a suburban markup to his deep-pocketed classmates.” He fantasizes about a confrontation with the classmate where he would be able to show his superiority.

David also takes on a group of friends that serve as a placeholder for better friends. He refuses to invest in the group, believing that he is destined for a more prestigious social circle. When he is praised in class, he imagines that the professor will invite him to guest lecture, as the professor would just want “the other students to be inspired by my example.” What is striking about these instances is that they are not unrelatable. These moments of hubris are ones we all have. It takes an obsession to reveal the logical conclusion of David’s superiority complex.

Within the first few days of orientation, David sees Veronica, to whom he refers throughout his narrative as “you.” He begins to do things that angle him closer and closer to her. He believes that his means will be justified by the end goal, but as his maneuvers become more extreme and manipulative, it is apparent that he doesn’t really see Veronica as a person but as a prize to be won, a key to the life he wants.

LONER is an incredibly deft exploration into the logic of destructive male privilege. Wayne somehow balances the obvious ignorance of the narrator with a keen artist’s awareness. He knows exactly what he’s doing when he opens the mind of a privileged teen. He recognizes that the thoughts and privilege of David are not only problematic and dangerous but shared by many. The sympathy and understanding we have for David is because we’ve seen his type before, and they were written in such a way that made us love them. But Wayne refuses to redeem his Holden.

With each page, the stakes of David’s actions rise, and the reader is at times equally exhilarated and repulsed. LONER is a compulsive read from beginning to end.

Reviewed by Allison Sharp on September 30, 2016

by Teddy Wayne

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 1501107909
  • ISBN-13: 9781501107900