Prep meets The Secret History in Nash Jenkins’s Foster Dade Explores the Cosmos, a searing debut novel about a tragic scandal at an American prep school, told in the form of a literary investigation through a distinctly millennial lens.
“[A] striking debut . . . funny, heartbreaking, and real.” ––Sam Lansky, author of Broken People
When Foster Dade arrives at Kennedy, an elite boarding school in New Jersey, the year is 2008. Barack Obama begins his first term as president; Vampire Weekend and Passion Pit bump from the newly debuted iPhone; teenagers share confidences and rumors over BlackBerry Messenger and iChat; and the internet as we know it is slowly emerging from its cocoon. So, too, is Foster emerging—a transfer student and anxious young man, Foster is stumbling through adolescence in the wake of his parents’ scandalous divorce. But Foster soon finds himself in the company of Annabeth Whittaker and Jack Albright, the twin centers of Kennedy’s social gravity, who take him under their wing to navigate the cliques and politics of the carelessly entitled.
Eighteen months later, Foster will be expelled, following a tragic scandal that leaves Kennedy and its students irreparably changed. When our nameless narrator inherits Foster’s old dorm room, he begins an epic yearslong investigation into what exactly happened. Through interviews with former classmates, Foster’s blog posts, playlists, and text archives, and the narrator’s own obsessive imagination, a story unfurls—Foster’s, yes, but also one that asks us who owns our personal narratives, and how we shape ourselves to be the heroes or villains of our own stories.
Foster Dade Explores the Cosmos is about privilege and power, the pitfalls of masculinity and its expectations, and, most distinctly, how we create the mythologies that give meaning to our lives. With his debut novel, Nash Jenkins brilliantly captures the emotional intensities of adolescence in the dizzying early years of the 21st century.
About the Author
Nash Jenkins grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University, he worked as a correspondent for Time in Hong Kong and Washington, DC. His cultural commentary has also been published by the Atlantic. He received his MA from the University of Chicago in 2019 and is currently a PhD student in the program Media, Technology, and Society at Northwestern University. He lives in Chicago.
“Juicy . . . Jenkins [is a] huge new literary talent.” —CURTIS SITTENFELD, The Guardian
“A New England boarding school whodunit set in the early aughts, Foster Dade unfolds in an unlikely way, including through blog posts and playlists that capture the teen angst of the early internet era, before we were all so intertwined with each other.”—THE BOSTON GLOBE, Best New Books for Summer 2023
“Stylistic flourishes in the form of playlists, legal papers, and entries from Foster’s blog provide a convincing...panorama of the school’s microcosm . . . Jenkins proves to be a keen world builder and a mostly engaging raconteur.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“A compelling mystery that uncovers the harmful reaches of privilege, power, and toxic masculinity . . . Jenkins’s writing is a joy to read, with plenty of humor and intense emotional reckonings that come with growing up in the early years of the twenty-first century.”—CHICAGO REVIEW OF BOOKS, a must-read book selection
“A transfer to a New Jersey boarding school falls in with two social heavy hitters and gets expelled. The student who moves into his old dorm room tries to figure out why. This debut novel . . . is a late-aughts period piece — think BlackBerrys and Vampire Weekend — with prep-school-scandal bones.” —CHICAGO MAGAZINE, summer reading recommendation
"If Holden Caulfield had been dropped into the Obama era, he might be Foster Dade, the protagonist of Jenkins’ exhilarating debut novel . . . [Full] of wit, enriched by social insights about class, masculinity, and adolescence. . . An enduring story of adolescents struggling to find the narratives they wish to tell."
—THE NATIONAL BOOK REVIEW
“Ambitious . . . [A] finely observed account of teen angst and awkward sex in an academically demanding environment marked by privilege and cliques and the cruelty they breed.” —KIRKUS REVIEWS
“In this striking debut, Nash Jenkins captures the rarefied world of an East Coast boarding school with uncanny specificity. But in mining this privileged milieu, Jenkins unearths something universal: An exploration of the teenage tendency to self-mythologize that’s funny, heartbreaking, and real.”—SAM LANSKY, author of Broken People
“Nash Jenkins’s preternatural understanding of America’s upper class lets us see what’s really going on beneath all those layers of Ralph Lauren and Yves St. Laurent. Full of teenaged yearning and the myths we make long into adulthood, Foster Dade Explores the Cosmos delivers on its ambition—and then some.”—RAFAEL FRUMKIN, author of Confidence and The Comedown
“A fresh and acutely observed portrait of a modern young man. Foster Dade Explores the Cosmos throbs with candor and longing.”—JULIA MAY JONAS, author of Vladimir