The Best Books of 2023

Near the start of “The Guest,” Alex, a sex worker, is booted out of a mansion by Simon, her affluent boyfriend. They appear to be on the ritzy east end of Long Island, though the location is never named. Alex must make a choice: she can return to the city, where she has no friends, no apartment, and a vaguely menacing man on her heels, or she can wait out Simon’s anger, hoping he’ll take her back at his annual Labor Day party, in six days’ time. She chooses the latter. Her only tools are a bag of designer clothes, a mind fogged by painkillers, and a dying phone. But what follows is riveting, a class satire shimmed into the guise of a thriller.  Because Alex is young, pretty, well-dressed, and white, the privileged people she meets believe that she’s one of them. They let her into their parties, their country club, their cars, their homes. Alex, like Cline, is a consummate collector of details, and part of the book’s pleasure is its depiction of the one percent—their meaningless banter, their blandly interchangeable clothes. But Alex is too passive a character for revenge. The book isn’t a caustic takedown of the rich so much as a queasy reminder of their invulnerability.

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