From the Jacket

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.

My Thoughts

Me: I think I like this book…
You: You think you like this book.
Me: I think I like this book?
You: You think you like this book.
Me: I think I like this book!!

TRUST EXERCISE is a very polarizing book; a quick scroll through Goodreads will show many readers giving Choi’s National Book Award winner either one or five stars.  For me, part one was a solid three stars, and it wasn’t until Choi really started to play around with structure and narrative in part two that I began to really love the novel.

“To David, love meant declaration.  Wasn’t that the whole point?  To Sarah, love meant a shared secret.  Wasn’t that the whole point?”

The real struggle I felt reading TRUST EXERCISE was why any of it even mattered, but I think that speaks more to my attitude and less to Choi’s work.  It’s a very uneasy read, not something I could sit down, get comfy, and enjoy.  Choi handled difficult topics really well, giving them just the right amount of attention without letting them overshadow the rest of the novel.  If I’m being completely honest, I was a bit confused for the first fifty pages or so, and as soon as things started to make sense Choi threw some curveballs… she definitely knows how to keep her reader on their toes.

“Thoughts are often false.  A feeling’s always real.  Not true, just real.”

I really enjoyed my time inside Choi’s TRUST EXERCISE; not only is it well-written, more importantly it’s so cleverly structured.  10/10 would recommend if you’re looking for something to keep you interested until the very last sentence!!

Further Reading

“Who Owns the Story?” by Erin Schwartz, The Nation
“Susan Choi on Power Dynamics and Timely Fiction” with Jeffrey Brown, PBS NewsHour


  1. Literary Elephant

    Great review, I’m so glad you appreciated this one! It also took me a while to get into it, but once the structure became clear I really loved what Choi was able to do with it. I also really like the way you opened the review with your self-dialogue, very fitting! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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