A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life has split opinions from the year it was first published in 2015 – from earning a lot of literary awards to the apparent dislike of people, to the hugely strong opinion that this book is the best book ever. What this book is for sure, though: is that it evokes strong emotions from all of us.

Here are some of the things I liked about the book:

Its wonderful male friendships. We begin with a collection of characters, all united for their love for each other and in particular their friend Jude. Jude’s story is essentially the main focus of the book, but his relationships with his three other friends also drives himself, and furthermore, the story of the book. I really liked the dynamics around this foursome, and the fact that unlike a lot of other “male gang” stories that are well-loved (The Raven Boys, The Marauders, to name a few), we see their growth as individuals, sometimes separated in terms of views, feelings, timezones, or even not talking to each other for years, while still remaining friends. It was really a nice aspect of the book that I liked.

Things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully.

It is packed with emotions. Jude’s life, and I’m sure if you haven’t read the book before you’ve heard in many other reviews before, is filled with horrible things and all of them are very strong, emotion-evoking parts of the book. This book made me cry so so hard, in so many different ways and different instances, that I understand when many people wouldn’t be able to finish or continue the book because of the overwhelming feelings they had while reading it. Is it necessarily a good thing? It might not be for many people, since the amount of emotionally investing scenes in this book is just unbelievable, and that might not be your cup of tea.

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It is memorable. As I sit down to write this review it’s been over two months since I finished the book. Yet most of the scenes and the characters still stick to my mind, and the feeling I get from the book is still vivid in my head.

The writing is readable and does not read like a long book. Before picking this book up I was reluctant because of the size of it… will I finish it in one month? Two months? Turns out I read it cover to cover in less than a week, because I couldn’t help but keep reading, all through the night and day, and that is because of the writing style. It might not be (again) your cup of tea, but it is definitely readable.


I was going to make another four points of why I didn’t like this book,

but I think people have already stated the cons of this book in many many negative reviews. I do agree in many of them. For once, it is highly emotionally draining, depressing and filled with triggers. It leaves you feeling empty and depressed, like a Dementor just sucked your soul. It is unrealistic, with all the things happening into one poor poor person and not only that, the effect it has on him over the years. It makes you think when you finish the book: what’s the point again? You make us go through this person’s horrible mid-life, his horrible past, and later on his awful future, with scattered good years in between, a sliver of hope, but then what for? Which is probably my biggest problem with this book. It has no clear purpose for the reader other than to take us through this emotional roller-coaster that does not end in a high. And that is not really what us readers want when reading a book.

But overall, like I mentioned before, this book is very thought-provoking, and everyone who has read this book will definitely have something to say about it. It can be either bad or good, but in the end it is indeed an extremely popular, very discussion-inducing piece of literature.

Further links recommendation:

Hope you liked this little review. Check out my Goodreads for up to date info on the books I’m reading or just finished reading. Sorry I haven’t been posting for a while in the blog, life’s just been busy! But I hope to deliver more book reviews and discussion posts and less wrap ups, and overall just interact more with the lovely book lovers in the book blogging community again. Until next time!

9 thoughts on “A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

  1. Great review! It is definitely a thought-provoking read which will make a reader feel depressed, but I don’t agree that the book is purposeless – it has many purposes and messages and there is a lot about how society puts pressure on individuals to succeed and have families (it is considered “normal”); how other people cannot connect with a damaged individual and what misunderstandings can arise; and how that emotionally and mentally damaged individual perceives himself and his relation to the world (not objectively at all).

    It is clear Jude ends up in his state because society puts so much pressure on us being “normal”, “happy”, “successful”, “self-sufficient” and “independent”. If he knew it is alright for us to be “broken” and ask for help, if he knew that there is no shame to have a past one could not control in having, THEN the end might have been different for him. But this is NOT the world we are living in. That is Yanagihara’s point.

    Sometimes there is simply no hope – why deny that, Yanagihara ask? If some people do not want to read that – fine, they can continue reading and living in their optimistic world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really like your point of view, and I do hear you. But I do feel like at times in the book, especially towards the end, there was this underlying feel of hopelessness that was very difficult for me to shrug off.

      I do really understand the aspect about Yanagihara’s point of view and aspect.

      And again, I love how so many different point of views and discussions that spark off from the themes in this book!


  2. I didn’t know about this book before reading your review. But it does sound like a must read. For me anyway. I am a sucker for emotional books, those that leave me a sobbing mess…..looonggg after the pages have been closed and the book put back on the shelf to collect dust once more..I LOVE THAT HEART WRENCHING FEELING….The last time this happened was a month ago when I read The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway! I AM TELLING YOU, Ayunda, the beauty of his writing and the raw emotions and hardships IS JUST TOO MUCHHH!! 😭😭😭😭 And this one sounds JUST LIKE THAT!! AND I CANNOT RESIST ADDING IT TO MY TBR!! This was SUCH A POWERFUL REVIEW, hon!! AMAZINGGG!! 😍😍😍❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely heart-wrenching!!! It’s been very controversial for being too depressing, so be aware of that before going into it.
      Have never heard of Steven Galloway, definitely gonna check it out! Thanks 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been meaning to read this for years, so it’s good to hear it evokes such strong emotions. It’s great that the male friendships were so well done as well. And good to hear it’s memorable and readable- especially for such a long book! It’s good to know that it is so draining (in the Dementor soul-sucking way 😉 ) though. Excellent review!


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