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The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis
Literary fiction

The Shards

by Bret Easton Ellis

Quick take

Bret Easton Ellis’ thrilling latest is 2 parts 80s LA, 1 part serial killer at large, with a dash of prep school drama.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_80s


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_WellKnownAuthor

    Famous author

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Unreliable

    Unreliable narrator


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.

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Content warning

This book contains scenes depicting graphic violence.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Shards.

Why I love it

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.

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Member ratings (1,072)

  • Jared B.

    Glendale, AZ

    Immediately one of my favorites. The tension, suspense, lust, and horror- it’s all so perfect and engaging. Yes, it’s long. Yes, it’s graphic. But it’s so well written and it really strikes a nerve.

  • Megan T.

    Scottsdale, AZ

    I can’t explain how thrilling this book was - I read and listen to audio books more than is probably healthy and I absolutely couldn’t put this books down. The writing was so real and profound.

  • Christina D.


    His best book yet. Makes me glad I was a middle class kid during that era. What a mess those characters and their families were! Really chilling writing and scenes in many parts. Excellent!

  • Jordan T.

    Ocean Springs, MS

    The 80s setting was so well described and the characters were all so terrible but great in their own ways. There was also some truly horrific scenes that I will think about for quite some time.

  • Chad D.

    Marquette, MI

    This was a wild weird ride. It was surreal in a did it happen kind of way and even though some editing would probably make it a faster read, I devoured it.