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.)
"Both intelligent and intellectual, this is both a tribute to brilliant teachers and a cautionary tale of their imperfections." Kirkus Starred Review
"One of the most engaged reads I've had in years."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"A provocative, constantly surprising, and original novel. This is a thrilling debut."
"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."
"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?"
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.