By Andrew Boryga
Doubleday, 288 pages, $27

The title and marketing of Andrew Boryga’s debut novel, Victim, promise a critique of the social-justice values that have come to predominate in works released by Big Five publishers. The book delivers that, plus something more. Victim is the story of Javier Perez, a Bronx-born kid of Puerto Rican origin who goes to Ivy-equivalent “Donlan College” in upstate New York, where he learns to cynically exploit his skin color, ethnicity, and background of hardship to achieve success, first on campus, and then in the New York media after graduation. 

“Come for the diversity-media-bashing, stay for the actual diversity.”

“I wasn’t trying to play the victim until the world taught me what a powerful grift it is,” Javi says in the book’s first line. But what at first seems like a salvo in the culture wars quickly becomes an intertwined-fates story of Javi, his girlfriend, and his best friend from back home, three people who aren’t types, though they might at first seem like them. And these human and complex characters raise questions and engender sympathies that are broader and more generative than the framing might initially suggest. Come for the diversity-media-bashing, stay for the actual diversity. 

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