Book Review | A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Title: A Little Life
Author: Hanya Yanagihara
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Pages: 736


When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

In rich and resplendent prose, Yanagihara has fashioned a tragic and transcendent hymn to brotherly love, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.


I honestly don’t know what to say about this book. I feel like anything I write here will not do this masterpiece even half the amount justice it deserves. At the same time, I am vary wary of praising it too much and overhyping it for someone else. I want as many people to experience this book as possible without super high expectations that it will never be able to reach.

But what can I do? This book was fucking fantastic, and it’s my duty to let everyone know!


  • We are TIMELESS.
    There is no reference to what time period it is during the book. Some people really had a problem with that, but I liked it. I felt like we didn’t need a time period. It kept the focus solely on the characters and their relationships with each other, which I think was the goal.
  • Flawed, but flawless characters.
    No character is perfect in this book. Everyone has flaws, but they are so developed and genuine that at the end of the day, you still love them. Much like real people.
  • The way sexuality is handled.
    There will be off-hand comments about how that guy has a new boyfriend or something like that, but it’s not made into a huge production and it’s not the defining thing about the person. Which is the way it should be, but sometimes in books it can feel very much like “LOOK AT ME PUTTING  A GAY CHARACTER IN MY BOOK. I’M SO VERY DIVERSE.”
  • Love over romance.
    This book is definitely not romance, but it is so full of love. A Little Life centers around Jude and his relationships with all the people who love him over the course of three decades.

“You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.”

– Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life


So…this book hurt me. It hurt me more than a book has ever hurt me before and more than I ever thought was possible. The reason for this is that Yanagihara is a master at creating real characters. They were so incredibly fleshed out that by the end of the book I felt like I had known them all personally for years. I felt like I was truly in this world and that is what made the events of this book 100 times more impactful to me.

A Little Life has a reputation for being devastatingly heartbreaking, but I did well for the majority of the book. There were many scenes that made my heart clench or even made me gasp aloud, but I had not broken down yet. I thought I might make it through, but then those last 100 pages happened. Bruh. Tears streamed down and down and down for the entire duration of the last 100 pages. I was so distraught.

I love when I am able to have this kind of reaction and it’s the ultimate praise to the author. It means they successfully brought the world they created to life and it made an impact on someone else. This isn’t a book that you will be able to read and just move on to the next one. It stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

If someone were to ask me what my favorite book is right now, at this very moment, I would have to say A Little Life. I loved it that much. I hope my review will convince someone to pick it up and give it a try. I feel bad giving this book 5 stars because when I think about the other books I’ve given 5 stars to on this blog, they don’t measure up to this one. But since 5 stars is the highest rating possible, of course I give it…

5 stars! (But it gets 100 stars in my heart, lol).



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