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You Deserve Nothing [Hardcover]

Alexander Maksik
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
RRP: £16.99
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Book Description

15 Sep 2011
Set in an international high school in Paris, YOU DESERVE NOTHING is told in three voices: that of Will, a charismatic young teacher who brings ideas alive in the classroom in a way that profoundly affects his students; Gilad, one of Will's students who has grown up behind compound walls in places like Dakar and Dubai, and for whom Paris and Will's senior seminar are the first heady tastes of freedom; and Marie, the beautiful, vulnerable senior with whom, unbeknowst to Gilad, Will is having an illicit affair.

Utterly compelling, brilliantly written, YOU DESERVE NOTHING is a captivating tale about teachers and students, of moral uncertainties and the coming of adulthood. It heralds the arrival of a brilliant new voice in fiction.

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Product details

Read a Q&A with the author [PDF]
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (15 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848545703
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848545700
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 713,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alexander Maksik is the author of the novels You Deserve Nothing and A Marker to Measure Drift, named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2013.

His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Nonrequired Reading, Harper's, Tin House, Harvard Review, Condé Nast Traveler (where he is a contributing editor), The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Salon and Narrative Magazine, among other publications and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he is the recipient of fellowships from the Truman Capote Literary Trust and The Corporation of Yaddo.

Twitter: @AlexanderMaksik

Instagram: @AlexanderMaksik

Product Description


'One of the most engaged reads I've had in years. YOU DESERVE NOTHING is that rare and fearless debut novel that feels like anything but.' (Alice Sebold, author of THE LOVELY BONES)

'Alexander Maksik's You Deserve Nothing is a bracing, challenging, enthralling debut. It is a novel that rings true from first page to last, refusing the false notion of easy choices, inhabiting, rather, the moral maze of lived life. Here is a gifted writer who understands why the artful telling of a difficult story is a brave and important thing to do. Read this book.' (John Burnham Schwartz, Author of The Commoner, Reservation Road, and Northwest Corner)

'A provocative, constantly surprising, and original novel written with precision and grace. Maksik is unflinching in his exploration of the sexual awakening of the young, and the moral complexity of adulthood. This is a thrilling debut.' (Susanna Moore author of IN THE CUT and THE BIG GIRLS)

'The best stories are by nature confrontational, implicitly asking readers to assess their own lives and assumptions, asking readers not only what they might do in difficult situations but more so what they are doing daily and what it all means. By this yardstick, 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 self-worth? And how shall we live?' (Tom Jenks, editor, Narrative magazine)

'The phrase 'brilliant debut' is much overused in our world, but Alexander Maksik's You Deserve Nothing is truly one of those rarest of creatures, a brilliant 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, troubling, unflinching book, as honest and rich a depiction of life's contradictions as I've encountered in many years' (Ben Fountain, author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevarra)

'Alexander Maksik deftly evokes the beauty and pathos of Paris. The story of Will, Gilad and Marie, each compelled towards his or her own 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 cafe or a cup of tea while tucked safely in bed' (A.M. Homes)

'YOU DESERVE NOTHING is a powerful, absorbing novel and Alexander Maksik is an unusually gifted writer' (Tom Perrotta Author of Little Children, Election and The Leftovers)

'An extraordinary read' (Viv Groksop, Red Magazine)

'Rivetingly plotted and beautifully written' (New York Times)

'Superb' (Sunday Times)

This debut novel comes garlanded with praise from it's editor, Alice Sebold...She knows a page-turning hit when she reads it and has every right to be excited: this is a hugely satisfying and thought-provoking novel...The story, of a charismatic teacher who becomes overly embroiled in the lives of his students at a Parisian international school, may seem hackneyed. In Maksik's hands, however, it takes on the quality of a thriller. There are echoes of The Secret History but You Deserve Nothing may be even more immediately appealing... (Daily Mail)

'Intelligent and intellectual, this is both a tribute to brilliant teachers and a cautionary tale of their imperfections' (Kirkus Reviews)

The quality of the writing is excellent, the three narrative voices (one the teacher, Will; one a female student, Marie; and one a male student, Gilad) are all pleasingly distinct and the Parisian setting adds another layer to the narrative. But where the story earns more than the four star rating for me is the exploration of the philosophical issues that so interested the, mainly French, writers that Will is teaching his students, namely Sartre and Camus (Bookbag)

An intelligent and considered debut, the novel invites you to walk around the lives of others, seeing the darker sights of their psyche against the backdrop of the city of lights without prompting judgement or indicating blame. A truly outstanding debut. I would recommend this to anyone as it really is a fantastic read. I don't give stars, but if I did this would have five (The Book and Biscuit)

Beautifully written...Eschewing pat morality, the novel shows that emotional truths are complicated for these flawed characters (Marie Claire)

A visceral, compelling exploration of teenage sexual awakening and adult morality (Easy Living)

'What Maksik has created with You Deserve Nothing is a story that is as fresh as it is old; a story of complicated emotions, simply told. It deftly conjures the very best of dazzling teen inspiration as well as the very worst of crippling teen alienation, while remaining a very adult novel. It reminds the reader how powerful ideas and literature can be - not just by creating a memorably complex character in Will, but with some stunning prose of its own as well' (Independent on Sunday)

'You Deserve Nothing ... is the enduring story of the clash of the personal moral codes we mouth and the private and hidden imperatives that compel us. Alexander Maksik depicts it fearlessly--and brilliantly, with graceful exactitude' (The Daily Beast)

'You Deserve Nothing is a bravura performance by a new voice who has taken the existential squiggle of classroom life and imposed upon it order with a sleight of hand worthy of Sartre' (The Irish Examiner)

'A compelling debut' (Stylist)

In the wrong hands this novel of ideas, examining the anxiety of choice for three overlapping lives, could easily fall into cliche. The achievement here, then, is that Maksik makes such a familiar theme so compelling...While comparisons with Donna Tartt and J D Salinger are apt given the high school setting and philosophical digressions, it's Ian McEwan who comes most readily to mind. Maksik's Paris is brilliantly sketched and demythologized. YOU DESERVE NOTHING arrives with a fanfare of acclaim. Alexander Maksik proves himself a worthy recipient of this attention (TLS)

Book Description

Dark, compelling story of an illicit affair between a young teacher and his female student for fans of Donna Tartt --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly insightful 2 Aug 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I thought this was a fantastic book. I wouldn't normally have bothered with it because I didn't like the sound of it at all - it has an off-putting title, it is set among wealthy teenagers in an American International School and has a plot synopsis which sounds like Dead Poets Society written by a French existentialist - but I am lucky that a friend whose judgement I trust recommended it to me. It turned out to be one of the best-written, most thoughtful and most intellectually and emotionally engaging books I have read for a long time, and I found myself as gripped by it as by a really good thriller.

The story is of an inspirational teacher and his relationships with his students. Alexander Maksik manages to make this both fresh and enthralling. He tells the story through three first-person narratives, the teacher himself and two of his students, one male and one female. All three voices are brilliantly done: distinctive, convincing and with real insight into their characters, and every character in the book is wholly believable. I thought he showed exceptional insight into the sheer thrill of being an inspiring teacher and into being a thoughtful 17-year-old with that nagging sense that other people have the answers but you don't. What really makes the book stand out, though, is the way the characters wrestle with ideas, idealism, the tension between what you want to be and what you find you can be, and the difference between our public faces and private interiors. I found this utterly riveting and extremely moving in places.

The prose is excellent. It is readable, unfussy and unpretentious, and sometimes very affecting.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The power of words and the weakness of actions 2 Sep 2011
By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There's a lot to like about Alexander Maksik's first novel - the clean economy of the writing, interesting characters that are explored in depth in an intensely driven storyline that switches in perspective between three people at an American school in Paris for the children of rich diplomats and ex-patriots. At the centre of this triangle is an inspirational teacher of literature, William Silver, the kind of teacher that young impressionable people gravitate towards as he opens their eyes to a new and exciting way of looking at the world. There is a difference however between how he is perceived by young seventeen year-old loner Gilad - who has been shuttled from one international city to another for much of his life - and how he is perceived by Marie, a naively excitable young student who intends to follow-up a crush on the handsome teacher. There's also a difference of perception between how they see Mr Silver and how he sees his relationship with them, and in those differences there is inevitably going to be disappointment and potentially even more serious consequences.

The inspirational teacher who proves to be not necessarily flawed as much as revealed to be as human as anyone else, is nothing new in literature or cinema, so if there is any corresponding disappointment with the reader and the expectations they have with You Deserve Nothing in this respect, well, that somehow fits with the nature of the novel and its dealing with unreasonable expectations.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fair to middling... 29 Feb 2012
In the blurb at the front this author is compared to J.D.Salinger, Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Donna Tartt and others but I can't help feeling that this list should merely be used as a guide to who this writer aspires to, as I certainly wouldn't put him in the same class as these luminaries of fiction. I found the whole thing a poor man's 'Dead Poet's Society' interspersed with a rather unbelievable romance between pupil and teacher that seemed entirely superficial and cliched to the nth degree. The only parts of the book I found remotely interesting were some of the existential discussions between the affirmation seeking teacher and his pupils in relation to certain texts they were studying but I had no real empathy, or indeed any kind of emotional connection to any of the characters. I felt that the atmosphere of Paris was quite well-drawn, and this along with the discussions previously mentioned raised this from a 2* to a 3* review. Probably not an author that I would seek out again...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read 17 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
We read this in our book group, it was an interesting one as it divided the group, people tended to love it or hate it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars written 22 Sep 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Didn't connect with this book ,read it very quickly which is unusual for me though it gave good discussion at book club
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some mixed feelings 19 Sep 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Quite an enjoyable read - loved the Paris setting, but began to dislike Will, the central protagonist, more and more: shades of "Dead Poet's Society" (without the endearing qualities) in the rather creepy, calculated way he treated his senior class, and clearly thought of himself as terribly clever in his approach to teaching. Told from the point of view of Will and two of his students, the narrative works well on the whole, with some very poignant moments in terms of teenage relationships and angst, even if elements of the storyline were rather predictable.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended reading!!
I was hooked throughout! Bold, realistic and moving. I expected a typical run of the mill romantic drama but this was better!
Published 16 months ago by Charlotte
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Summer Read
Set in the ISF, an international school in Paris, the book is told from the viewpoint of Will, a teacher at the school & two pupils Marie & Gilad. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Lorna
5.0 out of 5 stars You Deserve Nothing
A story of romance and passion told in a wonderful detailed story. Summer in Paris, Douglas Kennedy at his best
Published 20 months ago by williampendry
1.0 out of 5 stars Disgusting
I went to this school and know that although this story is supposed to be fiction, it is based on the author's relationship with one of the pupils (although there were others... Read more
Published on 1 Aug 2012 by Girl
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed - some great bits, but somehow not quite 'there'
This was a book club read and I probably wouldn't otherwise have tried it because the plot sounds a bit cliche and the outcome is surely predictable: following a teacher and... Read more
Published on 26 May 2012 by Holly
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, watch out for this author
Over the last five or six decades I have had a habit of reading first novels. Indeed, at one time I read ONLY first time novels. Read more
Published on 21 May 2012 by S2b an OAP
2.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't finish it
This book has been compared to Donna Tartt's The Secret History, described by one reviewer as 'more accessible'. Read more
Published on 20 May 2012 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read
Excellent book, really easy to read & draws you in. The story is told by the three main characters so you see each event from each viewpoint which makes for an interesting read
Published on 13 May 2012 by Sparkle
1.0 out of 5 stars sleazy and exploitative
I have written to the author to ask whether the other reviewers' comments about his affair with a seventeen-year-old were true or not, and he has not replied. Read more
Published on 26 April 2012 by Sisyphus
1.0 out of 5 stars Highly overrated
Cannot understand why this book has been so well reviewed. I found most of the dialogue phoney or artificial sounding, and, as another reviewer noted, too frequent use of people... Read more
Published on 15 April 2012 by Pirkko H.
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