Langer is as good a prop master as the one for Netflix’s Stranger Things, judiciously peppering his pages with relics from the past like Styrofoam containers from McDonald’s, Walkmans, overcooked lamb chops and references to Mariel Hemingway. Though The Breakfast Club came a little later, Gen Xers might also flash on that movie’s stereotyped teenagers locked in detention: Here, too, we have a jock, a pretty princess and a few troubled misfits ... Keeping track of who’s who in Cyclorama, and who’s playing whom onstage in The Diary of Anne Frank, can get a little homework-y ... have this year’s novelists all gotten a memo from their editors to include a scene of police brutality or racism? ... But Langer’s flip forward to 2016 is the literary equivalent of a Mary Lou Retton tumbling pass ... a scrim of slapstick something far more haunting and serious.
... an often funny, slightly messy but mostly deeply moving novel about the ways unresolved trauma affects the life choices we make, including the paths we take in our careers, the partners we choose and the politics we support. It's also a novel about how the bonds of friendship can transcend adolescent vulnerabilities and motivate us to work for change. Langer treats these teenage upheavals with a light hand, and though the novel occasionally takes some shortcuts in character development, the results are generous to its flawed cast ... Langer's novel reveals how the past echoes through the present and continues to shape our futures.
... [a] zestfully portrayed and irresistible cast ... [a] fast-paced novel of appalling behavior, bad choices, and floundering attempts at redemption. After two entertaining, biblio-themed mysteries, Chicagoan Langer returns to his home turf and gift for creating intricate and resonant ensembles ... Langer’s cycloramic tale of dirty tricks, moral reasoning, and learning to love is smart, captivating, funny, appalling, and tender.