A Most Anticipated Book of 2023 from Vulture, Elle, Lithub, and Electric Literature
“Theranos but make it gay.”—Electric Literature
Best friends (and occasional lovers) Ezra and Orson are teetering on top of the world after founding a company that promises instant enlightenment in this thrilling caper about scams, schemes, and the absurdity of the American Dream.
At seventeen, Ezra Green doesn’t have a lot going for him: he’s shorter than average, snaggle-toothed, internet-addicted, and halfway to being legally blind. He’s also on his way to Last Chance Camp, the final stop before juvie.
But Ezra’s summer at Last Chance turns life-changing when he meets Orson, brilliant and Adonis-like with a mind for hustling. Together, the two embark upon what promises to be a fruitful career of scam artistry. But when they try to pull off their biggest scam yet—Nulife, a corporation that promises its consumers a lifetime of bliss—things start to spin wildly out of control.
Searing and charming, with the suspense of The Talented Mr. Ripley, the decadence of The Great Gatsby, and the wit of Succession, Confidence is a story for anyone who knows that the American Dream is just another pyramid scheme.
Frumkin's exuberant latest (after The Comedown) pulls off a queer take on the caper novel. Insecure, brainy Ezra Green and handsome, charismatic Orson Ortman meet as teenagers at the Last Chance Camp, a kind of pre-juvenile detention program. Both show a precocious knack for con artistry. After their release, they partner on a series of mini-cons, like hustling wealthy older women, that takes them into their 20s. Eventually, they embark on their greatest scam—founding a company called NuLife that sells happiness via wearable magnets. Ezra handles the business side and Orson takes care of all things spiritual. At the same time, they strike up a sexual relationship. Ezra is in love with Orson, but never says so for fear that Orson won't reciprocate. The cultish NuLife grows into a huge success, making Ezra and Orson rich and famous. But then their empire comes under attack from a seemingly relentless financial investigator, a Stanford grad student who claims they stole his ideas, and a Hollywood starlet who comes between the two men. Frumkin's sharp observations and clever plotting echo the Theranos scandal and the NXIVM cult, though some of the twists are a bit improbable. In the end, Frumkin advances the subversive notion that love might be the biggest con of all. For the reader, the deception is thoroughly enjoyable.