Take a trip into the mind of a seemingly normal, bright but shy college freshman as he dives down into the world of obsession in Loner, by Teddy Wayne, but beware: this is not a pleasant trip.
Alan Federman, the protagonist of Loner, is a very intelligent kid from New Jersey who was sufficiently socially awkward that he never really found his “tribe” when he was in high school. He felt invisible, unnoticed by his fellow students and his teachers, but when he got accepted to Harvard, he was sure finally he was going to be with his intellectual peers and would at last become part of the cool crowd.
Naturally, as anyone who remembers his or her college days will be able to guess, things don’t work out that way. Your ability to reinvent yourself in college is limited especially when, as is the case with Alan, you don’t really understand what the problem was in high school (hint: it wasn’t just that he was smart).
While Alan meets some people, including a plain but friendly girl named Sara, he doesn’t find his way into the upper echelon socially, and is cruelly disappointed by his failure. But then he meets Veronica Morgan Wells, a beautiful freshman who’s everything he believes he deserves: rich, socially connected, a woman who grew up on the Upper East Side in New York City and carries herself like a princess. However, contrary to his expectations, Veronica doesn’t immediately fall in love with him. In fact, she doesn’t seem to know he even exists. He becomes obsessed with her, desperate to win Veronica, and willing to bend or break any rules that stand in his way. He is not a nice person, no matter what he thinks of himself, and his descent into the maelstrom he creates for himself is disturbing even while it’s fascinating.