Friday, January 1, 2010

Book Review: "The Tourists" by Jeff Hobbs

I found this book on one of my fairly routine bookstore browses, where I basically walk the fiction aisles looking at titles until one jumps out at me. Sometimes I remember hearing about the book, and sometimes I am simply intrigued by the description of the book and the first few paragraphs.

The latter was the case with Jeff Hobbs' The Tourists and I'm glad, because apparently when this book came out, it was labeled as a "Gatsby-meets-McInerney debut" novel. I probably would have run in the other direction if I had seen that, because how often does that hype ring true?

This is the story of four Yale graduates dealing with life in the "real world" nearly 10 years after college. While they weren't all friends in college, their lives become intertwined in far too many ways to recount in this review. And chronicling it all is the unnamed narrator, who is trying to keep his own life afloat both professionally and personally, and trying to make his mark in the world.

Even though I saw most of what happened in this book coming from a mile away, Jeff Hobbs created memorable characters from what could have been simple stock stereotypes—the fratboy jock struggling to make it in the business world, the exotic girl trying to be taken seriously, the gay guy determined to succeed over everyone else. The characters aren't always appealing, but I found the story compellingly readable; once I picked it up I couldn't put it down.

I do recommend this book, but for another take on the post-college angst story, I highly recommend Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children.

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