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You Deserve Nothing

You Deserve Nothing

3.5 22
by Alexander Maksik

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William Silver is a talented and charismatic young teacher whose unconventional methods raise eyebrows among his colleagues and superiors. His students, however, are devoted to him. His teaching of Camus, Faulkner, Sartre, Keats, and other kindred souls breathes life into their sense of social justice and their capacities for philosophical and ethical thought. But


William Silver is a talented and charismatic young teacher whose unconventional methods raise eyebrows among his colleagues and superiors. His students, however, are devoted to him. His teaching of Camus, Faulkner, Sartre, Keats, and other kindred souls breathes life into their sense of social justice and their capacities for philosophical and ethical thought. But unbeknownst to his adoring pupils, Silver proves incapable of living up to the ideals he encourages in others.

Emotionally scarred by failures in his personal life and driven to distraction by the City of Light's overpowering carnality and beauty, Silver succumbs to a temptation that will change the course of his life. His fall will render him a criminal in the eyes of some and all too human in the eyes of others.

In Maksik's stylish prose, Paris is sensual, dazzling, and dangerously seductive. It serves as a fitting backdrop for a dramatic tale about the tension between desire and action, and about the complex relationship that exists between our public and private selves.

Editorial Reviews

Adam Langer
This is a novel so rivetingly plotted and beautifully written that you forget its shopworn premise…[Maksik] writes about the moral ambiguity of Will's circumstances with dazzling clarity and impressive philosophical rigor. The contrasting perspectives of Mr. Maksik's trio of narrators—each telling his or her story in the past tense from a time when the events described have faded in importance—add to the complexity and the suspense.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Maksik's solid debut, the first book from Europa's new Tonga imprint, is set at an international high school in Paris. Will Silver is adored by his students for pushing them to think for themselves and to take responsibility for their decisions. Silver is wonderful at prompting others to live a courageous life, but, his students soon learn, he doesn't always live up to those ideals himself. He becomes secretly involved with Marie, a loudmouthed student at the school, whose best friend/worst enemy Ariel is in Silver's class along with Gilad, for whom Paris is just the next in a long line of cities he's called home. Paris itself threads throughout Maksik's novel, a character in its own right, sometimes supporting the action, sometimes contrasting it, and clearly a place that Maksik knows well. The author gives alternating first-person voice to Will, Marie, and Gilad, and chooses not to investigate Silver's motivation behind the affair, which can be frustrating. But the consequences resonate loud and clear. This is a thoughtful and sad story, ending with questions about the futures of everyone involved. Silver has been knocked off his pedestal, and what will become of the students is anyone's guess. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Both intelligent and intellectual, this is both a tribute to brilliant teachers and a cautionary tale of their imperfections." ---Kirkus Starred Review
-Alice Sebold
"One of the most engaged reads I've had in years."
-A.M. Homes
"Alexander Maksik deftly evokes the beauty and pathos of Paris, and the story of Will, Gilad and Marie-each compelled towards moral and sexual awakening- is at once dark and luminous. This is a book to be read all at once with a glass of wine in a café or a cup of tea while tucked safely in bed."
-Tom Perrotta
"You Deserve Nothing is a powerful, absorbing novel about a charismatic expatriate teacher and the students whose lives he transforms, for better and worse. Alexander Maksik is an unusually gifted writer."
-John Burnham Schwartz
"You Deserve Nothing rings true from first page to last. Here is a writer who understands why the artful telling of a difficult story is a brave and important thing to do. Read this book."
-Susanna Moore
"A provocative, constantly surprising, and original novel. This is a thrilling debut."
-Ben Fountain
"Maksik's superb novel takes on the most fundamental question-how are we supposed to live?-with a freshness and urgency that are nothing short of masterful. This is a gorgeous book, as honest and rich a depiction of life's contradictions as I've encountered in many years."
-Tom Jenks
"Alexander Maksik's first novel, You Deserve Nothing, is a thoroughly engaging, passionate, and challenging read that finely walks the line between morality and amorality. In a society, and at a time, when individual identity is so closely tied to collective narcissism, Maksik's novel asks what are the true sources of selfworth? And how shall we live?"
Kirkus Reviews

A novel that examines the relationship between the public and shared experience of a lively—even magical—classroom, and the private world of a gifted but flawed teacher.

Largely a character study of Will Silver, master teacher at the International School of France in Paris, the novel advances its narrative through multiple perspectives, much as Faulkner does in As I Lay Dying, one of the texts Will insists his students read. Will is a charismatic English teacher, one of those rare few who inspire a Dead Poets Society–typecult among the seniors in his philosophy and literature seminar. Based on their readings of Sartre, Camus, Faulkner, Shakespeare and Keats, he urges his students to raise questions about the way they live their lives and has them confront their own existential freedom and moral choices. But Will is caught in the irony of his own moral choices when he feels attracted to Marie de Cléry, a student at the school, and begins a torrid sexual relationship with her. Marie is best friends with Ariel, which is to say they have a volatile, love-hate relationship driven both by envy and by jealousy, and it's clear that Ariel will do anything to pull Will down. While much of the narrative burden of the novel is assumed by Will and Marie, Maksik also provides views of other students, especially Gilad, whose own homoerotic attraction to Will complicates his take on things. Some of the best scenes in the novel involve the reconstruction of the philosophical give-and-take of his classroom, Will's efforts to get his students to think and to make the literature their own. And despite the administration's understandable desire to turn Will into a monster who's preyed upon a vulnerable young woman, he remains sympathetic to the end.

Both intelligent and intellectual, this is both a tribute to brilliant teachers and a cautionary tale of their imperfections.

Product Details

Murray, John Publishers, Limited
Publication date:

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Both intelligent and intellectual, this is both a tribute to brilliant teachers and a cautionary tale of their imperfections." —-Kirkus Starred Review

Meet the Author

Alexander Maksik's writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the Harvard Review, Narrative Magazine, Strangers in Paris: New Writing Inspired by the City of Light, nthWORD and The Nervous Breakdown, among others. He is the recipient of a Truman Capote Fellowship and a Teaching Writing Fellowship from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He lives in Iowa City. You Deserve Nothing is his first novel.

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You Deserve Nothing 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AMAZING.  i know the other comments here are just downright ridiculous discussing the author's real life affair with his student as the reason why you should not buy this book but please don't let this stop you from reading this gloriously real and empowering piece of literature. Even if it was inspired by true events the man did not want to make it known he made it fictitious so that a memoir would not get in the way of his writings. the way this story is set in 3 points of view is downright great. I love books like that...they take you into the mind of not just one person but several to tell you what they are thinking. I am a writer and reading this i kept in mind that he did have an affair but i did not let that affair stop me from reading a book. A book is a book. whatever happened to don't judge book by its cover? read what's inside sure keep in mind that this might have happened but i wasn't there i don't know how much of whatever is in the book is true. I don't know the man's life so why should you have to worry about his life? just take my review READ THE BOOK.   
_H More than 1 year ago
When I first started the book I was automatically intrigued.. I wanted to keep reading. I'm a pretty fast reader so I finished this in like 2 days. The book may be about a teacher/student relationship but it sure doesn't just talk about that. It gets you thinking about other things too. And how teachers have an affect on their students. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a good read that has you thinking and wants to be intrigued with a good storyline. I honestly got a bit sad when I finished.. I wish it was longer !
KenCady More than 1 year ago
This novel is an enjoyable read which raises the issue of teacher's violating their trust by engaging in intimate relations with a student of the same school. Critics say that given the fact that the author himself violated that trust, he should not be read. I disagree, but of course do not endorse his behavior. My thinking is that his experience may have made him more qualified to speak on the subject. Also, at what point has a person paid for his offense and is allowed back into society as a functioning member? They tell aspiring writers to write what they know. It seems the author has followed this advice and done a good job too.
EricaZ More than 1 year ago
I share several commonalities with Alexander Maksik. I am a high school English teacher, a writer, and my parents are educators. I have a passion for literature, philosophy, teaching, writing, and Paris. I read You Deserve Nothing and was engaged. But I am horrified to learn that Mr. Maksik purportedly betrayed his former pupils, and lover, by writing a tell-all of a real teacher-student relationship under the guise of fiction. What’s worse is that Mr. Maksik devotes sections of the book to that student’s (Marie) narrative in which she speaks glowingly of their time together. In her eyes, Mr. Silver (or Mr. Maksik) is a handsome, intelligent, caring, loving, supportive, and admirable man. Even the character’s physical description matches the author’s appearance. Knowing the supposed truth behind this story now makes it read like revisionist history. Does Mr. Maksik regret assuming the girl’s voice? Particularly when it came to her describing Mr. Silver’s kindness and beauty? Did he wonder whether writing her thoughts during an abortion would be intrusive or even abusive? Why not write the story as a memoir? Is it due to the recent debate on what constitutes a memoir, as James Frey and Augusten Burroughs endured? Had the author claimed the situation as his own – or at least written from only the standpoint of Mr. Silver – would that not have at least provided his work with honesty? We write what we know. Stories should feel organic. And his book is a success on that level. But at what cost? Did Mr. Maksik fear that he would be profiting from a teacher-student relationship under the guise of fiction? Surely, he must have anticipated assertions from former students that the book is based almost entirely on his experience as a teacher in Paris – a fact that never appears to be mentioned in interviews promoting the work. It seems as though this text contradicts the love for students and respect for education that Mr. Maksik (and Mr. Silver) wax on about. Did Mr. Maksik feel confident enough in his need to write You Deserve Nothing that it was worth the purported betrayal? Or is reality reinforcing the existential lessons explored in the novel? I am interested in Mr. Maksik’s perspective. He has not provided comment on this controversy, but don’t his former students and colleagues, not to mention readers, deserve something? As the struggle between desire and action is an undercurrent of Mr. Silver’s story, this entire experiences seems a bit meta. Maybe that was always the author’s intention. I posed these observations and questions to Mr. Maksik in an e-mail and have not received a response.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alexander Maksik's novel is not an original creative story but a retelling of his own life when he was an English teacher at the American School of Paris. Maksik was fired from ASP in 2006 after he had an affair with one of his students which resulted in a pregnancy and abortion. She was 17 at the time. For him to write about these events is abhorrent and disgusting. Please do not support this creep by buying his book. I was a student at ASP at the time and remember the scandal. It is disgusting and he twists the events of what happened to show himself in a good light, but that is not what happened.
LastSilmaril More than 1 year ago
This phenomenally well-written bullet of a book is one of the best reads I've come across in a while. The author wastes no time introducing characters and throws a monkey-wrench in your expectations for them. They just as quickly turn from the stock 'enamoured student'/'brilliant teacher' into 'world-wise student(s)'/'jaded, hypocrite teacher' - but don't get me wrong: this is not a film, and the characters are far more believable, authentic, and resonant as a result of the three first-person narratives we're treated to, e.g. "Professor Keating gets real", as do his students and colleagues. In fact, the only persons who remain two-dimensional are the school administrators and parents - and to them, Maksik, as well as the protagonist, Silver, offer no apologies. They deserve nothing, you see.
classic1music More than 1 year ago
I love this book, it is very unusual but truthfull, a lot of moral questions, great story, easy to read
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thought this book was going to like a Lifetime movie based on its content, but it turned out to be smart and engaging. Great discourse in the dialogue.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was great some of the time but very boring at other times. Not really a book i would recommend but good enough.
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pitfarken More than 1 year ago
While there is much to appreciate and hold your attention and, more importantly, bind you to the characters, what is an interesting storyline set in a magnificent city, becomes a predictable, formulaic, and flat letdown. What develops as distinctive, ends as trite.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hiluni28 More than 1 year ago
I so loved this book! I just finished it, and it was absolutely great!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't buy this. IT IS NOT FICTION, and he is disgusting for assuming her voice. Ugh. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was dumb. Why on earth would a teacher write about his own experinece? But claim it to be fiction. This poor girl that he wrote about didn't even know he was writting a book? Hey, next time you write a book based on a real event get permission,
Marie16 More than 1 year ago
Even if it is a fiction, the story of a teenager having sexual relationship with her teacher in his 30s should never be glorified. But in a way this book does, by portraying the teacher a popular one among the students who supposedly awakens his students thinking process. This writer exploited people in his past to compensate the lack of his genuine creativity to write a novel. Thanks to the internet, we now know he evidently used too much of his real life experiences without giving any credit, apology or homage to those who are involved.