PanThe New York Times Book ReviewHis odd new novel tills this familiar terrain ... Aimee is the kind of sullen, milky-skinned antiheroine Jennifer Jason Leigh made a career out of playing in the 1990s, and just as irritating. Though it’s made clear that Sam has given her a much-needed sense of purpose, the motivation behind her slavish devotion to a rambunctious chimp is never meaningfully explored. She merely assumes the thankless role of Guy’s moral compass, taking increasingly desperate measures to protect Sam from other venal malefactors who see him only as a meal ticket ... The book rotates among the perspectives of Guy, Aimee and Sam, and Boyle is to be commended for tackling such an audacious task: It takes courage to devote a third of your novel to the imagined, often incoherent thoughts of a chimpanzee and trust that your readers will happily tag along ... Boyle’s human characters are deeply flawed people whose layers might have proved interesting to peel back. But their veneers remain intact, none of them plumbed in any way that makes them accessible or even mildly interesting, leaving you longing for their comeuppance rather than their redemption ... Boyle also has a pacing issue ... Why did Aimee need Sam so much? And why did he instantly bond with her, and only her, from the moment they met? How much can chimps really comprehend, learn, think? All interesting questions raised and, alas, never really answered. In the end, Boyle delivers a dour, hollow resolution that leaves you wondering what, exactly, the point of the whole escapade was: That apes are just apes? That humans suck? That science carries its own terrible moral costs? Maybe all of them. Or none of them. Without richer, more fleshed-out characters and motives, it all feels like just another cup of coffee at Tom’s diner.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThere is an art to writing about unlikable people while still engaging the reader to invest in their indulgence, vanity and, yes, happiness. Tracking the fallout wrought by Eva’s acquisition, Leavitt unfurls a droll drawing-room pastiche that evokes la dolce vita as Seinfeld episode ... It’s Aaron Sorkin on steroids. And surprisingly compelling ... Leavitt has claimed John Cheever and Grace Paley as influences, and it shows here: His dissection of the pampered New Yorkers’ reaction to Trump’s election, which they treat as a personal affront, is lethal and also kookily endearing ... Leavitt, cleverly crafting a New Yorker cartoon in words, proves there is still some navel-gazing worth reading. His autopsy of the current liberal ennui is not particularly trenchant or surprising, but it’s certainly amusing. And in this ghastly year, can’t we all use more of that?
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewMeyer’s diary entries seem more like those of a vainglorious, overachieving high school junior trying to retain the interest of the school’s self-absorbed jock ... [Meyer\'s] general ruefulness and wry observations feel thin; the book is less a diary of someone’s deepest thoughts, insecurities and secrets than a carefully curated Wikipedia entry ... Wolfe’s Meyer comes most alive when imagining her wild-child side — at one point she jumps naked into a pool at a party at Bobby Kennedy’s — and when she’s flinging zingers at the go-go ladies of the day ... As she devolves into a weird hybrid of Perle Mesta and Nancy Drew, her sense of self-importance billows like a mushroom cloud. \'Can a blonde go up against the whole world?\' she wonders. The better question is: Why would we care?