YOUth Review: A Little Life by Hanna Yanagihara

A Little Life by Hanna Yanagihara is a novel that follows the lives of four friends: Jude, Willem, JB, and Malcolm, with most of the focus on Jude. Jude is physically disabled due to his damaged spine and has a traumatic past which is revealed as the novel progresses. Willem has dreams of becoming an actor. Malcolm works as an architect. And JB is a painter who wants to break into the art world. As the novel progresses the relationships between these four characters change due to events that happen in the lives of different members of the group. The novel shifts its focus to mostly focusing on Jude as it progresses as more of his past is revealed which helps explain his life in the present.

I have mixed feelings about A Little Life. I really enjoyed how well-written it was, many of the word choices and descriptions of settings and characters were really descriptive and detailed. I also thought the four main friends had a good dynamic in their friend group that felt very realistic. However, I found myself not enjoying much of the book’s content, especially toward the second half of the novel. The novel features very graphic descriptions of abuse suffered by Jude which was quite hard to read. I feel as though the author could have handled these sections better as the suffering the characters, particularly Jude, go through feels at times excessive and unnecessary to the narrative. I would definitely advise anyone who wants to read this book to read a trigger warning for the content of this novel. Overall I probably would not recommend this novel to most people purely because of the intense and graphic content.

Written by A. Wallace