This endearing bildungsroman depicts a college freshman confronting sexual politics and the leisure class at Yale. Kennedy does a fine job of tracing out what happens when young people who have too much time and too much money are set free from the constraints of parents and boarding-school dorm mothers. Alex, whose parents run a set of tourist cabins in Maine, attends Yale on scholarship, having wished all his life to join the elite in the halls of Ivy. He falls in with a prep school crowd of budding nihilists whom he loves and hates at the same time. Along the way, he meets and becomes obsessed with Jill, a senior who has a female lover but sends him ambiguous signals of desire. When Jill is beaten in a campus gay-bashing incident and dies, Alex is forever changed. He plays a key role in the investigation and decides that the simpler values he left behind were not so terrible after all. Following Christmas break, he returns to New Haven to make a new start (with a fresh perspective). This 1980s update on Fitzgerald, though at times as self-indulgent and full of itself as the pretentious people it portrays, is a promising first novel. Author tour. (Feb.)
First novelist Kennedy examines the values of the 1990s as perceived by a group of Yale students. The plot revolves around Alex McDonald, who experiences growth outside the classroom through contrasting social situations and peer interaction. Alex's wealthy roommates and quasi-friend, senior Jill Lanigan, whose sexual politics are new to him, provide contrasts and social frictions from which he learns values and maturity. A Yale graduate himself, the author presumably knows his milieu, and he writes well, but his book will be appreciated mainly by college students. --Ellen R. Cohen, Rockville, Md.