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American Subversive: A Novel
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American Subversive: A Novel

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3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  499 ratings  ·  95 reviews
Aidan Cole and his friends are a band of savvy—if cynical—New York journalists and bloggers, thriving at the intersection of media and celebrity. They meet at loft parties and dive bars, talking of scoops and page views, sexual adventures and new restaurants. And then, without warning, a bomb rips through a deserted midtown office tower, and Aidan’s ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Scribner (first published January 1st 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,270)
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Scott Seaborn
American Subversive is Goodwillie's debut novel-- so I'll start with the positives. The novel is a well-written page-turner. Goodwillie is very efficient in his language, and the dialog really flows.

Unfortunately, I hated every single character in this book. It was extremely difficult to identify with self-absorbed hipsters and terrorists. I didn't care about the people, ergo I didn't care about the story.

I'll try to summarize the plot without spoiling the story:
Unlikeable counter-culture terror
...more
Marian
As you might expect from a political thriller, American Subversive is fast paced, gripping and a serious page turner. Now, I'm not a thriller kind of girl but this book is un-freaking-believable. Seriously. The concept is so timely (blogging and terrorism) and I actually found it easy to relate to the main characters (Goodwillie writes from the perspective of a woman - how cool is that?).

The relationship between said characters (two narrators: blogger and terrorist) is complicated but innocent,
...more
Monica
Maybe I ask too much of books. Maybe I'd just like a story to be believable, and for authors not to rewrite history.

I enjoyed this book at first, although I was repeatedly frustrated by Goodwillie's portrayal of Paige, the activist, and the history he gives (through her) of the WTO protests, Earth Liberation Front, etc. For example, according to the book, at the WTO, the cops only started firing teargas after getting pelted with rocks and such. Uh, not. Also, the black bloc folks smashed in the
...more
warren Cassell
Based on several excellent advance reviews, I reserved a copy of "American Subversive" at the library. Big mistake. Supposedly a thriller about home-grown terrorists, I found the writing to be pedestrian, the characters vapid and the plot not to believed. I wasn't thrilled and stopped after sixty pages. You could save time by not even starting it--but that's what horse races are all about.
Jill
American Subversive is a book about belief turned inside-out. It's an intelligent and literary thriller, a thought-provoking peek into America's dark soul, and a veritable page turner. It's also the debut book for David Goodwillie, an author who is up to the task of unearthing the country's seductive roots.

The dual protagonists/narrators are Aidan Cole, a member of the chattering class, who blogs for Roorback, ("a roorback is a defamatory falsehood published for political effect") and Paige Rode
...more
spencer
A smart, beautiful woman gets struck with a bad case of malaise and becomes a terrorist. Deconstructing the plot that way makes it sound absurd, but Goodwillie manages to pull it off with modest success. That being said, you have a fairly typical navel-gazing story about people being bored with life in New York, which is told with great alacrity. You know there is something amiss when you would rather the characters spend their time talking at a party, where they are being interesting, rather th ...more
Tommy
The premise of this book (ecoterrorists blow stuff up without killing anyone) is intriguing, as is the use of two narrators (one of the terrorists and the blogger tracking her down). But the plot takes a couple of less-than-believable turns, and the author lets one of the narrators (the more self-absorbed, less interesting one) take over for most of the second half. I'm not sure why The New York Times named this one of the best novels of the year.
Alison
A decent story, glammed-up for probable cinematic adaptation with just enough forward propulsion that you will probably enjoy it in spite of its absurd plot twists, hilariously improbable characterizations and multiple, suspension-of-disbelief-shattering factual errors.
andrew
meh. entertaining but overreaching.
Andie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Billpilgrim
Paige Roderick's brother dies while serving in Iraq, and this event jars her to such an extent that first she becomes an activist, then a revolutionary. She joins a small cell that plans Actions, i.e. bombings, which are not intended to kill, but to draw attention to the target, which would be some corporation, and thereby expose its misdeeds, and through that process alone put a stop to them.
Aidan Cole is a thirty-something Manhattanite, living a self-absorbed life, working as a blogger who co
...more
Al Swanson
After reading the synopsis, I was really excited about this book. It didn't disappoint through the first two thirds, either.

Most of the time, a book with action as the centerpoint, like action movies these days, has to go over the top. I appreciated that the author thought enough of the audience not to go to extremes. The action in the book is realistic and while violent, doesn't involve killing scores of people to be effective. Too, it can be argued that the action is a mere sidebar and the re
...more
Patrick
Apr 23, 2010 Patrick rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People Enraged By Rich People and Kids on Trust Funds
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dan
This is a book of big ideas and missed opportunities. Author David Goodwillie takes on serious topics, but, while he does make contact, he doesn't hit it out of the park. Instead, he pokes it softly over the first baseman's head.

The story begins just after a bombing in midtown Manhattan, and the city is still reeling, and searching for culprits. Protagonist Aidan Cole, a blogger who parties with the media elite, receives an anonymous tip pointing him toward the perpetrators of the bombing, and t
...more
Liza

From the very beginning of this story, Goodwillie catches his readers up in a sense of intrigue and secrecy, at the heart of which are real human characters. The distinguishing element of this novel, for me, is the honesty with which it seems to be written. Goodwillie seems to reveal essential truths about what it is to be human, to be emotionally driven, to be idealistic, and to discover love through respect. Furthermore, this books presents a subtle commentary throughout on what it means to be

...more
Dana
Paige Roderick is a young woman reeling from the death of her brother, a soldier in Iraq, who finds a purpose and comfort in the radical politics of her brother's best friend. Aidan Cole is a paid blogger, part of a professional blogging conglomerate, who writes snark and gossip during the day and parties all night. Their paths cross when Aidan receives an anonymous email with a picture of Paige leaving the NYC building where a bomb has gone off.

Told in alternating chapters from the points of vi
...more
Paul
Actual rating: 2.5 stars.

A decent novel about American radicals, the kind who set off bombs, descendants of the Weather Underground and the Earth Liberation Front. This novel, unlike Stuart Archer Cohen's The Army of the Republic, is strangely passive: the action, what there is of it, is described at one or two removes, through the after-the-fact words of one radical and one blogger who get swept up in a plot to blow up an office at a major media headquarters in New York City. There are also too
...more
Joy
I was quite pleased with the pace, plotting and writing of this book until the end. Then, I fear it rather fizzles out. So my rating was a strong 4 stars until the end, when it dropped a bit. I think, overall, the book was a worthy one, and I will leave it at 4 stars just for the readability and freshness of the subject matter. The chapters go back and forth between Aiden, a blogger and party guy, and Paige, a beautiful, disenchanted home-grown terrorist. Their lives will intersect and in-betwee ...more
Nick
I knew I was the target audience for this book when i read the NYT review, but I wasn't prepared for the sheer quality of the narrative drive and the appeal of the characters and story. This is the story of a contemporary pseudo-hipster blogger in New York who gets tied up with an alleged radical via a mysterious email with a photo. He begins a search that transforms his life, and for us, the reader: we must know what the fuck happened! Like a whodunit, more like a whodunnit-and-why. Texture, vi ...more
Petra Willemse
This story of the modern day American terrorist alternates with the story of a media blogger in New York. Obviously, the reader knows that their stories will merge. Frankly, that's where the story lost me. I liked both the characters, but when they came together the story lost its momentum for me. I still would have gone 4 stars, since I was interested in what would happen next, if it wasn't for the ending. The very last sentence just destroyed the narrative for me. I was so disappointed. Overal ...more
Kate
There are some pithy descriptions of NYC, and, since I am teaching a NYC lit and history class at the moment, I found myself to be especially tuned in to these moments:

"There was a velocity to the city, a careening inevitability that became addictive. Everyone I knew felt it--the great rush of plans and possibilities--and we lived accordingly. What was it exactly? It was everything vibrating at once" (173).

As I think about moving out of the city in the next couple of months, I do feel that I wil
...more
Diane
About young twenty somethings who are so disillusioned with America that they become part of revolutionary groups a la the Weathermen of the 60's and 70's.
I found this very thought provoking. It makes me think about our country today and the spoiled young people who have a me-first attitude while they accumulate stuff at the cost of the environment to benefit the fat cats of business. Sometimes it's good to see a few revolutionaries who want to shine a light on issues to help wake up the complac
...more
Joe
American Subversive is an intriguing, hard to pigeon-hole novel – part political thriller and part love story. The book chronicles two protagonists - Aidan Cole, a 30-something Manhattan blogger and Paige Roderick, member of a radical domestic terrorist group. The narrative switches back and forth between these two characters, whose separate paths collide soon after a bomb explodes above Barneys – an upscale department store on Manhattan’s 5th Avenue.

The book excels in its character development
...more
Lynn
Liked it, even though it felt kaind of amateur. And the author got his facts wrong - the parents of the protgaonist supposedly met when they were juniors together at Yale at a time when Yale was not co-ed. And one of the minor characters could be me, reduced to the stereotype of which I am a member. But this last is maybe why I liked it - a hint of how my kids' see my generation.

The story, about eco-terrorists, moves along, the characters were believable to me. Good quick read.
Joyce
Although I did not like the protagonists (I found them to be full of themselves and unable or unwilling to have any empathy for the rest of the world), they did attempt to redeem themselves in the finale. The plot was sufficiently complex and detailed to hold your interest and to keep you coming back to learn what happens next. Some of the ending was predictable, but that did not lessen its impact.
Troy
Love the writing style. Though I'm sure by checking this one out at the library I'm on a list somewhere. =) Surprisingly up-to-date on some of the references, seems like it would have had to have been written in the last 6 months...(maybe it was).

Ending left a lot of wondering - who are the good, the bad, which side are you on? I think that's the point, and it's achieved very well.
Clay
A disappointed idealist turned terrorist, and a New York blogger on her tracks. A gripping read that jumps back and forth in time, suggesting that not all Americans are willing to settle for rich, fat and happy. A Kenyon College graduate, the author worked as a private investigator and as dot com and Sotheby's worker, building up experiences that ground the book in reality.
Noam
I did like the suspenseful plot of American Subversive, but it was hard to feel for the characters, who didn't seem particularly well fleshed out or believable. More importantly, the book was replete with sentences and paragraphs that, I think, were meant to be profound and insightful but gave me nothing in the way of thought-provocation, clarity, or edification.
Glendora
This one's a thinker. It was engrossing and a page-turner, well written with a plot that moves you forward. The characters keep you interested but it's a bit of a tightrope walk staying off the side of over-intellectualization.

Overall, I enjoyed it a great deal. It leaves you pondering the problem of everything that goes with being American.
Naomi
I can't say that this is a "must read," but it definitely held my attention. It's about how the alienated individuals who turn to activism and eventually terrorism--the point being it can happen to anyone. Personally, I don't think the characters were well developed enough to make it credible, but again, it was a good read.
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Great book, fast paced, good debut... 2 11 Apr 24, 2010 09:58AM  
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