Bret Easton Ellis’ thrilling latest is 2 parts 80s LA, 1 part serial killer at large, with a dash of prep school drama.
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BOTM Editorial Team
Literary enfant terrible Bret Easton Ellis simply sounds like no one else. In this incisive new novel, he drops readers into a surreal, quicksilver 1980s Los Angeles simmering with tension and unease. It is a thrilling treat to see him return to some of his most important themes—trauma, self-knowledge, paranoia, social patterning—and make them new again.
At the center of this dark coming-of-age story is Bret, a senior at the tony Buckley School, and his tight knit circle of friends. On the surface, they seem to be on top of the world with endless potential and possibility before them. But when a new student, Mallory, arrives at Buckley and becomes a charismatic new presence in Bret’s friend circle, it begins to reveal fissures and darker undercurrents lurking just beneath the surface. This precipitates a gripping descent into paranoia that leaves both Bret and the reader on unsure footing, only made more pressing by the rising incidences of violence seeping from the background into the foreground from a nostalgia-tinged LA that refuses to be mere scenery.
The Shards is a wily novel, playing with the boundaries between fiction and fact, myth and memoir. It troubles easy clichés about growing up and asks difficult questions: Are we defined by our traumas? To what extent can we trust our minds and memories? It’s a new standout from a modern master who still has a few tricks still up his sleeve.
17-year-old Bret is a senior at the exclusive Buckley prep school when a new student arrives with a mysterious past. Robert Mallory is bright, handsome, charismatic, and shielding a secret from Bret and his friends even as he becomes a part of their tightly knit circle. Bret’s obsession with Mallory is equaled only by his increasingly unsettling pre-occupation with The Trawler, a serial killer on the loose who seems to be drawing ever closer to Bret and his friends, taunting them—and Bret in particular—with grotesque threats and horrific, sharply local acts of violence.
The coincidences are uncanny, but they are also filtered through the imagination of a teenager whose gifts for constructing narrative from the filaments of his own life are about to make him one of the most explosive literary sensations of his generation. Can he trust his friends—or his own mind—to make sense of the danger they appear to be in? Thwarted by the world and by his own innate desires, buffeted by unhealthy fixations, he spirals into paranoia and isolation as the relationship between The Trawler and Robert Mallory hurtles inexorably toward a collision.