Some books are painful to read for the right reasons, like this one, Teddy Wayne’s Loner. It is an expertly rendered, if derivative first person novel about obsession, misplaced affection, and the world that enables sadomasochistic behavior. It is a disturbing novel, one that will stick with me for a long time like Jack Ketchum’s Stranglehold and Joyce Carol Oates Zombie, two titles that match this book’s social hideousness. But what made this painful to read was its familiarity. While I am glad to say I never went off the deep end, I related to the narrator’s struggles with his affection for his dream girl, his pitiful mentality and unearned sense of entitlement. It made my lack of sympathy for him as the book went on, which turned to pity and finally to revulsion by the end, more than a bit embarrassing and cringe worthy for me personally. The narrator is young David Federman, a rather forgettable adolescent who has somehow found his way to Harvard. He gets good grades with ease, but you get the sense that he doesn’t really enjoy anything he does. He comes alive during orientation, when he spots Veronica Wells, a beautiful girl who captures his cold heart. What would be an awakening instead becomes a trip toward one young man’s damnation. He starts dating her roommate, Sara, just to get close to her, and as he infiltrates her life, we as readers slowly find out she is not as beautiful as David finds her. His attempts to gain her favor, while shunning Sara are both pathetic and reprehensible, and by the book’s ending, which does come off a bit tawdry, I feel that everyone got what they deserved, good and bad. An easy read, since I finished most of it in a day, but a harrowing and morally complex one that intrigues and repels in equal measure.