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The Topeka School by Ben Lerner

Topeka High School senior Adam Gordon wants for nothing. He’s good-looking, popular and top of the school debating team - surely his middle-class upbringing by two doting psychologists would be a buffer against the underlying culture of toxic masculinity that pervades his hometown?

Yet even on the cusp of adulthood, Adam’s moral fibre already seems compromised: he cheats on his girlfriends, he uses his slick debating skills to defend the indefensible, and he and his pals cruelly pretend to include Darren, the class reject, in their gang.

Narration bounces between Adam, his parents and Darren, traversing time and perspective. This cerebral, riveting read - replete with superb characterisation, imaginative detail and profundity - raises as many questions as it does provide answers.

Reviewer: Stacey Anyan

Allen & Unwin/Granta, $45