Loner is very readable. The main character, David, has a strange kind of charm, and a different way of speaking, which personally I liked. His perspective is skewed; he's defensive and as he does the manipulative and downright disturbing things he does to other characters in his small circle of peers, playing them off of each other, using them to reach deluded goals, it seems undeniable that he really buys into the untruths he tells himself. This part is quite effective: he is a stalker, but he doesn't really see himself that way. By "effective" I mean to say that I found him to be successfully creepy.
And now that I've finished writing my review I feel it best to put the large middle section as a spoiler. I do give away significant plot points here!
SPOILER BEGINS HERE!
Do I believe a person could really be that naive and directed at the same time? I guess so, as I myself find myself missing cues not given to me succinctly. But directed? I don't know about that in this circumstance. David really wants Veronica. His manipulations, for the most part, are relatively innocent on the surface, showing up where she is and pretending it's coincidental, for example. So maybe, in the end, when he attempts to rape Veronica after he discovers how she may have been manipulating him all along, I can accept that he felt he had a chance with her if he just showed her what a great guy he was.
But what he does to Sarah in order to get closer to Veronica, well, that's pretty directed and at the very best, cynical. While he may not be as cunning as Veronica, he's definitely as cynical.
Overall, I experienced several things in reading Loner.
...a strange longing to revisit my own college experience, at least for the first quarter of the book, because I sheltered myself too much to have experienced the darkness explored here, and the personalized response dissipated pretty quickly when the stalking began.
...a growing dis-ease and eventually dread
...a mixed reaction by the ending...was it too predictable? was the author trying too hard to build a psychological case to explain the character's actions?
SPOILER ENDS HERE!
I don't know what to make of the book, to be utterly honest. I liked reading it. It's a good example of "the unreliable narrator." I just don't know if the author wants me to take his novel as a warning, a character study, a philosophical exercise, a social commentary, something else, or a combination of these. I suppose I'm bothered not because of unanswered questions, which is never a point against a work of art for me, but because I truly feel I am left flailing with these questions, and plugging potential answers into the final product leaves results which seem to me to be not quite right, and I'm left with puzzlement and not much else.
My gratitude to the publisher for an ARC of this book.