Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Expensive People (Wonderland Quartet, #2)” as Want to Read:
Expensive People (Wonderland Quartet, #2)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Expensive People (Wonderland Quartet #2)

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  1,203 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
Oates's third novel, originally published in 1968, is the riveting story of a child murderer told by the killer himself. Nominated for a 1968 National Book Award, Expensive People is a stunning combination of social satire and gothic horror.

Joyce Carol Oates' Wonderland Quartet comprises four remarkable novels that explore social class in America and the inner lives of you
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 12th 2006 by Modern Library (first published 1968)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Expensive People, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Steph (loves water)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,674)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nov 18, 2014 Inaniel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-readings
Hmpf. I don't know. It started great, went very well for some while. I started liking the characters, the scene and the plot. Then suddenly came two or three intermezzi (chapters with totally different plot and style...why?) and after this I somehow got lost and couldn't connect with the characters anymore. Hm, nope, sorry.
Dan Thorson
Aug 03, 2011 Dan Thorson rated it really liked it
Seven years following the death of his mother, 18-year-old Richard Everett bluntly tells his audience that he was a child murderer. A severely obese recluse, Richard never fit in with the images of grandeur put forth by his father, a boastful professor and mother, a beautiful and mysterious writer. Further isolated at his pretentious private school, Richard becomes deeply troubled. His psychosis reaches dangerous heights when his beloved mother proves deceptive and vain, obsessed with maintainin ...more
Laura J. W.
Mar 12, 2012 Laura J. W. rated it it was amazing
"Expensive People" (the second book in the "Wonderland Quartet") is a dark social comedy with well-off suburbia as a stage and a cast of unlikeable, larger than life characters who make an appearance of being regular folks, but they are monsters of their making. When the story ends, I found myself wondering if this kid hallucinated the whole ordeal as the unstable mind of this particular young man is fertile ground for such is a haunting book. I really like JCO's early work more than ...more
Jan 26, 2012 April rated it it was amazing
As the second of Oates' four-part, loosely-connected series on American life, Expensive People is her "romance with novel-writing itself." Part meta-fiction, part satire of 1960's Suburban culture, this memoir of a child murderer (not to be confused with a child-murderer) explores solipsism, the meaning of freedom, women's roles/responsibilities -both bodily and societal-, and obsession through the eyes, and typewriter, of a minor character of the world in which he lived.

"'When there is no longe
Jan 28, 2009 Nicka rated it liked it
From promising beginnings, it ... drags on. This novel may have been more significant and ground-breaking when it first came out. We know how suffocating suburbia is by now, countless other books and movies have taught us this. The portraits painted are exquisite but leave me unaffected: no one is particularly compelling. We pity the narrator but we don't like him. The narrative style entertains in the beginning but like the narrator himself suggests, yes, the digressions do annoy
Sunny Shore
Aug 13, 2012 Sunny Shore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After thinking about it, I decided to change this book from a 4 to a 5. It was a really powerful story written in the '60's about disillusioned wealthy youth which could've been written today. It's a little scary to think that not much has changed, but like Catcher in the Rye, the movie The Graduate and other artistic endeavors with this realizes the cycle just keeps on rolling no matter what the century is. The story of a very rich boy from a dysfunctional family (although this is d ...more
May 27, 2008 Alison rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I think this was the first Oates novel that I've read and haven't liked all that much -- mainly because of the narrator. I'm not a huge fan of things written from the viewpoint of an unreliable narrator, and so that was one of the problems. Another thing that bothered me was the narrator's constant references to the fact that he was writing the account -- even going to far as to frequently talk about how poorly written it was, and how many digressions there were, and how the last three chapters ...more
Nada Faris
Jul 28, 2013 Nada Faris rated it really liked it
The prose was fluid. The protagonist unique, fleshed out, deranged, and engaging. The "plot" wanders though, sometimes in a seemingly aimless manner, but always culminating with an attention grabbing cliff hanger, a one line conclusion to the chapter that snaps the reader back to the story at hand: how the eleven year old child murdered killed his 'parent'.

I read the first 80% of the ebook on the treadmill (which is something I reserve for young adult novels and not serious works that I intend t
May 31, 2009 Bridget rated it really liked it
I finished [Expensive People:] this morning, and I enjoyed it. I love Joyce Carol Oates which is probably biased by the fact that I grew up in Buffalo, NY. But I really enjoy her writing style.

[Expensive People:] is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek tale about Suburbia. The story is told from the perspective of a son whose father climbed the corporate ladder (moving his family from suburb to suburb every 18 months). The mother seemed to be a woman who was trying to avoid being the cliche housewife and
Jul 14, 2015 Tuxlie marked it as to-read

Joyce Carol Oates’s Wonderland Quartet comprises four remarkable novels that explore social class in America and the inner lives of young Americans. In Expensive People, Oates takes a provocative and suspenseful look at the roiling secrets of America’s affluent suburbs. Set in the late 1960s, this first-person confession is narrated by Richard Everett, a precocious and obese boy who sees himself as a minor character in the alarming drama unfolding around him.

Fascinated by yet alienated from his

Seward Park Branch Library, NYPL
Jun 15, 2015 Seward Park Branch Library, NYPL rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-picks
'9. I observe much parallelism of paragraphing and sentence structure as I dare, (Note that each of these remarks begins with "I." or did you already notice it, you clever son-of-a-bitch?'

This is the first novel by Joyce Carol Oates that I've read, and I had no idea where to begin (after all, she's written over 40 novels... a little intimidating for the Oates novice), so I just yanked 'Expensive People' off of our shelves at the Seward Park Library. I'm glad I did!

Obviously, I can't speak compar
Sep 02, 2016 Natasha rated it really liked it
This was such a surprise after my disappointment over them.

There are similarities for sure, as they are part of the same series. But what disappointed me about them was mostly missing in this book: The character and narrative were consistent and made me care; there was a minimum of the "I don't know what's going on and I'm wandering around in a mist" first-person narrative (well, it was still there in this book, with the protagonist feeling as if he were "asleep" or "waiting" for most of his lif
Tyler Jones
Aug 27, 2015 Tyler Jones rated it really liked it
Jarring and disturbing, yet fascinating and ultimately very satisfying. This is the first Joyce Carol Oates novel I have read, so I don't know if it is typical of her work. I don't even know if there is such a thing as a typical Joyce Carol Oates novel. I can only judge the book on its own - and on its own it is pretty damn impressive. At times I was reminded of Nabokov, as I think the narrator of this tale has a Nabokovian sense of humour about American culture. The style also seems to be remin ...more
Cathryn Conroy
Jun 05, 2014 Cathryn Conroy rated it really liked it
Joyce Carol Oates wrote this book, which was published in 1968, in the first person--as a 250-pound, 18-year-old highly disturbed boy/man-genius, who is holed up in a cheap rented room eating wads of horrible food as he writes a memoir about being a murderer at age 11. This is the second book in the "Wonderland" quartet in which Oates examines various pieces and parts of American society. "Expensive People" profiles one affluent (and highly troubled) 1960s family. In this case, Oates writes this ...more
Dec 02, 2014 Anna rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Author was definitely reading a lot of Nabokov when she wrote this. A peculiarly devastating portrayal of the invisibility of children in this time and social milieu. I think a lot of reviewers of the novel missed a subtle but crucial point about the narrator's key action--the reliability of his confession unravels.
Amy P.
Jun 22, 2010 Amy P. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a morbid tale, yet so well written! The characters are engaging, even if the plot is disturbing. However, I still found that I could not put this book down. Definitely not a book for those we get depressed easily. For those who like a well written story, this is your book!
John Devlin
Aug 30, 2014 John Devlin rated it it was ok
(2.5) Oates is a maestro of the short form but I've never been galvanized by the few novels of her I've read. Expensive People continues this run. Marked by a gravity of insight but also a self awareness that mars the immersion into the novel. Of course, alot could be said of how meta this work is: the real short story by Oates credited to one of the characters and the memoirist style that purports to be non-fiction. Oates' attack on American commercialism might have been fresh in the late 60's ...more
Mar 29, 2014 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I could, I'd give this book 2 and a half stars. JCO makes some really interesting social commentary about the middle class and its children that still rings true today, but the narrator's incredible solipsism makes it difficult to read. The narrator/protagonist addresses the reader quite often, pulling you out of the story. The act of reading mirrors the satirical point JCO attempts - that the indifference you feel towards the narrator and the boredom you experience during the tale reflect th ...more
May 23, 2012 Stacy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Liked it better the first time, 15+ years ago. This time I would give it three stars, but I am going to keep it at four, since I once loved it.
Dina Marie Gangale
Mar 11, 2010 Dina Marie Gangale rated it liked it
Good but not great...some very good dark humor...It was great look at the 1960's suburban life...left you wanting to know more.
Meagan Houle
Jun 01, 2014 Meagan Houle rated it liked it
This is a chilling criticism of American culture. First published in 1968 or so, it remains shockingly relevant even now. Richard, a "child murderer", is so unhappy with his position as a "minor character" in his mother's life, that he eventually discovers "freedom", and through that freedom, his sickly, quiet, inoffensive child-self disintegrates. He is then caught between hating himself, and glorying in the freedom of choice he experienced--for it is when he is killing that he is most alive. T ...more
Andrew Fairweather
Jul 31, 2016 Andrew Fairweather rated it it was amazing
Shelves: yank-lit, fiction
'9. I observe much parallelism of paragraphing and sentence structure as I dare, (Note that each of these remarks begins with "I." or did you already notice it, you clever son-of-a-bitch?'

This is the first novel by Joyce Carol Oates that I've read, and I had no idea where to begin (after all, she's written over 40 novels... a little intimidating for the Oates novice), so I just yanked 'Expensive People' off of our shelves at the Seward Park Library. I'm glad I did!

Obviously, I can't speak compar
Mar 18, 2015 George rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-century
Δεύτερο βιβλίο της Όουτς που διαβάζω, μετά το Ζόμπι, δεν μπορώ να πω ότι με ξετρέλανε όσο το προηγούμενο, αντίθετα μπορώ να πω ότι σε κάποια σημεία με κούρασε και λίγο παρά το μικρό του μέγεθος.

Αφηγητής και "συγγραφέας" της ιστορίας είναι ο έφηβος Ρίτσαρντ "Ντίκι" Έβερετ, που αφηγείται την ιστορία του τότε που ήταν δέκα-έντεκα χρονών το 1960 και πως έφτασε στο σημείο να γίνει δολοφόνος. Μέσω της ιστορίας η Όουτς δείχνει τον κόσμο των προαστίων και των σχετικά πλούσιων οικογενειών και των σχέσεω
AmberBug **
I must really love tragic tales about messed up people. I wonder if this reflects on me at all? This book is one of Oates earlier works and is part of the Wonderland Quartet. The quartet is a group of individual novels with an underlying common theme. These books explore social class by delving deep into a character growing up in America. Sounds like many books you've heard of? Well this is done by Oates and with each book my awe of her writing and stories grows. She understands that humans are ...more
Feb 28, 2012 Casey rated it really liked it
Gorgeous, tragic--you know, my kind of book. It was my first Joyce Carol Oates book, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a faux memoir narrated by an 18-year old obese boy who committed a horrible crime when he was a depressed 11 year old. Loses some steam in the middle and then picks back up again when the main character begins his descent into madness. Interesting POV because a lot of the anguish of the main character centers on his mother, but we don't know her very well. We are not privy to her ...more
Oct 27, 2013 Lee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I picked up this ancient yellowed paperback in a used book store because I felt that, as a modern American who loves literature, I really ought to read more Joyce Carol Oates. I have read several of her short stories and decided that her place in the pantheon of great writers is not misguided. Where to begin with her novels, however, seemed a daunting task. Do I start with the first and work my way through time? Do I start by reading all of her gothic/horror books? Should I alternate these with ...more
Jun 11, 2011 Rachel rated it liked it
I loved "The Falls" by Joyce Carol Oates and expected great things from this well reviewed book.Its commentary on upper-middle-class suburban life was intriguing through the eyes of a verbally ironic, manic young narrator who professes to be a "child murderer". It is well written and delves into the conveluted inner conscience of a writer, as the narrator is always breaking down the traditional narrator/reader barrier to commiserate with his audience. Oates also achieves what she sets out to do, ...more
Oct 10, 2008 Molly rated it liked it
It is with great relief that I return to the Wonderland Quartet. After choking down book one of the Twilight "Saga" (um. please. Stephanie Meyer is no Egil.) hoping for a fling with a new series of books, I was left feeling bored, angry, and mostly sad. It's depressing that these books are so popular. There is an entire generation of young girls who are learning relationship cues from the most dysfunctional, self-absorbed, co-dependent star-crossed lovers in literature since Romeo and Juliet. An ...more
Dave Gunton
May 21, 2016 Dave Gunton rated it it was amazing
Hard to not think about Catcher in the Rye as you read this, another rollicking tale told by a male teenage narrator. But while Catcher -- from what I remember -- is a pristine portrait of a boy this feels like a pristine portrait of a whole culture, dynamic and multi-dimensional. And though published almost 50 years ago -- how is that possible? -- the treatment of violence seems very topical. Fun, quick, layered, provocative, highly recommended.
Sally Whitehead
May 28, 2013 Sally Whitehead rated it liked it
Nothing has ever quite lived up to "Mulvaneys" for me when it comes to Joyce Carol Oates, and since that was one of the first of hers I read, her earlier work perhaps haven't made quite the impression they might otherwise have.

This is a great book in many ways, and it captures the suburban ennui of the 60s American middle class perfectly. It's just a little too self conscious for my tastes. The narrator is fabulously unreliable and intriguingly contradictory in his aloofness and whimpering insec
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 89 90 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Cheating Curve
  • Robin and Ruby
  • Forgiving Ararat
  • Without Prejudice
  • Pinocchio in Venice
  • Starr Bright Will Be With You Soon
  • The Grail King (Druids of Avalon, #2)
  • In the Shadow of the Cypress
  • Seeing Stars
  • To Catch a Cheat
  • The Spy Game
  • Written in Time
  • Conflict of Empires (Eskkar Saga, #3)
  • Fireflies
  • Amigoland
  • The Hijack (Stratton, #2)
  • The Great Lover
  • The Devil's Touch (The Devil, #3)
Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Laure ...more
More about Joyce Carol Oates...

Other Books in the Series

Wonderland Quartet (4 books)
  • A Garden of Earthly Delights (Wonderland Quartet, #1)
  • Them (Wonderland Quartet, #3)
  • Wonderland (Wonderland Quartet, #4)

Share This Book

“Was it confusing because it was artistic, or artistic because it was confusing?” 18 likes
“Literature, art, like civilization itself, are only accidents.” 5 likes
More quotes…