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Ten Thousand Saints

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3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  5,048 ratings  ·  674 reviews
Adopted by a pair of diehard hippies, restless, marginal Jude Keffy-Horn spends much of his youth getting high with his best friend, Teddy, in their bucolic and deeply numbing Vermont town. But when Teddy dies of an overdose on the last day of 1987, Jude's relationship with drugs and with his parents devolves to new extremes. Sent to live with his pot-dealing father in New ...more
Hardcover, 388 pages
Published June 7th 2011 by Ecco (first published June 1st 2011)
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Will Byrnes
You’ve been punked. There are few halos in view in this ensemble coming-of-age tale. Sixteen-year-old Jude Keffy-Horn, named for the saint of lost causes, and maybe a Beatles song, is a lost soul of a teenager. He lives a fairly meaningless existence in Lintonberg, Vermont (by which we mean Burlington), filled with drugs and rock and roll, if no sex yet. He is prone to angry outbursts and has trouble concentrating in school. His bff is Teddy, the product of an alcoholic, erratic mother and a pos ...more
Amy
What did this book want to be? Who knows? Henderson throws everything at this book (adoption, teen pregnancy, AIDS, absent parents, drugs, jock-bullies, damaged lower classes, damaged upper classes, FAS, ODing, straight edge movement, homosexuality,etc.) but the kitchen sink. After almost 400 pages & all the hard issues Henderson tackles, the book left me with not much to think about. Why? Because Henderson didn't focus on any one thing, she just keeps throwing out more problems & improb ...more
Toni Konkoly
I think I will be gushing about this book for quite some time. It's definitely my new one-size-fits-all book recommendation -- I basically can't conceptualize who out there wouldn't love it. It's a coming-of-age story, many times over, set against the backdrop the late-1980's hardcore punk / straightedge scene, in a long-gone New York. And it just has so much heart, and is so meticulously constructed, and tells such doozy of a story. After I finished it, I went back and reread the New York Times ...more
Scott
Yeah, I wasn't really convinced by Eleanor Henderson's too-long debut novel, set in New York City and southern Vermont in the early 1980s and starring a bunch of teenagers who, at various points, lose their virginity, smoke a lot of weed, huff freon, have a baby, get abandoned by their parents, die, live in Alphabet City squats, get AIDS, get tattoos, get in fights, and, for a big chunk of the book, play in a straight edge band and espouse the whole don't drink/smoke/fuck (also, here: /eat meat) ...more
Elaine Lincoln
This was well-written, but ultimately I had a problem with the book: it seemed the author backed off from showing the scenes of transformation that comprise the book. We see that Jude has adopted the straight edge lifestyle, but we don't see the months when this happens; we just see him after the fact. We see Johnny and Rooster in crisis, we're very invested in them, and then they just disappear. And there are other dropped threads, like Jude's FAS, which don't ever amount to anything. Most frus ...more
Kinga
“Ten Thousand Saints” is a coming of age story that’s close enough to “A Visit from the Goon Squad” but not as amazingly brilliant and a tiny bit like “Freedom” but luckily devoid of Franzen’s annoying self-importance.

If you grew up in the 80’s somewhere on the East Coast of the US, you will be able to relate to this book, especially if your growing up involved drugs, teenage pregnancies, overdosing, AIDS, rock bands or Straight Edge movement. If your adolescence was more conservative you can re
...more
Sorayya Khan
Eleanor Henderson's Ten Thousand Saints is the perfect example of how really excellent fiction is universal. I was not, at the outset, interested in the straight-edge music scene of the 1980s, an odd off-shoot of the punk music scene (in fact, I knew nothing about it), yet the beautiful rendering of Henderson's story pulled me into a world I did not know I cared about. The novel is, plain and simple, a story of devotion--to family, to friendship, to music, to teenage bonds, to love, to survival. ...more
Dan
This is the best contemporary novel I've read in years. I dreaded reading it - the New York Times review was absurdly congratulatory, which riled up the contrarian in me. The subject matter is "straight-edge punk." Generally, I hate books focused on music, because the author tries to rely on feelings he or she has about music that don't translate on the page. I only read the book because the review said it started in 1987, the first year of my yet-to-be published novel. It turns out that the onl ...more
Felice
Wow. I never would have thought of myself as the audience for TenThousand Saints.This is a novel about leftover hippies, yuppie invasions, pot sellers, zines, militant punks, AIDS, Vermont and New York City in the 1980's but this vigorous, imaginative, debut novel by Eleanor Henderson is packed with authenticity and mature storytelling.

Ten Thousand Saints is the story of Jude Keffy-Horn. He was raised by adoptive, divorced, hippy parents in a small city in Vermont. On the last day of 1987 Jude’
...more
Tsam
Right, so this book seems to try to belong to two different groups and therefore never really makes it as either. Firstly, it's a book about the NYHC scene, and in particular the emergence of straightedge and youth crew and whilst Henderson does a fine job of name checking all the right bands and the Sunday matinees at CBGB's as someone who lives this life and knows the history inside and out, I can't help but feel like I'm reading more of a well researched observation than the testament of some ...more
Sarah
Before reading:

This is the first novel of a talented woman who I became friends with when we were both knee-high, running down a dirt road in Florida chasing our bigger brothers. I am terrifically proud of her and can't wait for my copy to arrive in the mail.

After reading:

So, with a full disclaimer that I know and love the author, here's what I thought:

I have to admit, a book about punk rockers, NYC, drugs, and straight edge (which was a totally new concept to me) is not really in my realm of ex
...more
Marc
Reading the first few pages, I found myself squirming at the prospect of 300 more pages of another coming of age story, this time about a brooding, teenage protagonist that gets high on cleaning products and tailpipes, and his journey to “find himself” after the loss of his friend, another unlikeable loser named Teddy. But after the first couple chapters of your standard young adult fiction fare (forced urine drinking and adolescent coke snorting) the story fortunately took a turn for the better ...more
John
In "Ten Thousand Saints" Eleanor Henderson has written the quintessential novel of New York City's East Village in the late 1980s. She truly has breathed life into the East Village's recent storied past, and has transformed that neighborhood into a character as vividly realized as her novel's people. She has rendered for the reader a most memorable fictional walking tour through East Village, allowing oneself to become attuned almost immediately to its distinctive sights and sounds. While some h ...more
Bert
The premise was good; coming-of-age, New York in the Eighties, straight-edge hardcore punks with tattoos...but I wasn't convinced. It didn't know what it wanted to be. No real insight into the scene or the era, and Henderson's depiction of drugs was prissy, and the dialogue was strained - the whole thing could've used some serious editing. It wasn't awful or anything, but by the end of it all I felt very little. Which is not ideal, as the cover is classy and New York Times seems to have been wet ...more
Julie
Jun 16, 2014 Julie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 80s
There was almost too much to like about this novel, too many points of connection for me. The narrative, set almost entirely in the 1980s, ricochets from Vermont to the East Village to NJ and back again. From glass-blowing, pot dealing middle-aged hippies to straight-edged kids in a mosh pit at an all-ages hard core matinee at CBs, my brand of nostalgia is on uncanny display here. St. Mark's Place? Trash and Vaudeville? The Tompkins Square Park riot of '88? They are precious and important, not g ...more
Linda Lackey
This book was an unexpected surprise from David for Christmas. I think he selected it for me because it is reminiscent of my son's high school straight edge, tattoo fascination days. The novel begins with the fatal drug overdose of a high school boy, Teddy, on New Year's eve. Teddy and his best friend, Jude, ended up at a party with Eliza, who gives Teddy cocaine and becomes pregnant with Teddy's child before his body is found the next morning. The novel seemed a bit preachy in places - certainl ...more
Chris
File this book under "I can't believe I wasted five days of my reading life on this book." And be forewarned, this review can be titled, "Tell us what you really think, Chris!"

After a streak of four-star books, some of which may end up in my “best of” pile for 2011, I selected a dud. I picked this up last week after seeing it on the New York Times’s “Best of 2011” list, it was one of the top five fiction books of the year. Sadly, that wasn’t the case with me.

A first-time novelist, Henderson br
...more
Janice Decker
Obviously, Henderson is a strong writer. She wrangles a large cast, multiple plot complications, and yet delivers gorgeous imagery as a punctuation to her narrative, but it never feels like the images are coming directly from her -- rather, they come from the characters.

However -- and this is a huge 'however' because this book wound up on most "Best of 2011" lists -- this is a messy book. I could identify two entire subplots that added little to the overall surge of the story and only confused m
...more
Diane
I had heard good things about this book, but wasn't sure I'd be interested in the coming-of-age story of straight edge teens in the late 1980s New York City. Boy, was I wrong.
Henderson has such compassion for her characters- Jude, the drug-using boy in love with a girl who slept with his best friend Teddy, Eliza, the lost rich girl with a secret, Johnny, Teddy's straight edge musician brother hiding from himself- that you feel like you know these people and care deeply about what happens to them
...more
Maggie Wyatt
I chose this book because the NYtime listed it as one of the top 5 books of 2011. When I started it, I had my doubts--a story about teenage boys who were druggies set in the 80's was not really in my zone of interest. But I found myself quickly drawn in and actually finished the book in 3 days. There were some superficial coincidences and solutions, but the characters and their struggles seemed real to me. There were so many conflicts: the rejection felt by children who feel abandoned by a paren ...more
christa
Eleanor Henderson’s novel “Ten Thousand Saints” starts with a condensed version of the one-crazy-night premise from which entire films are built. It’s a lazy New Year’s Eve day of smoking, huffing, drinking and snorting for Teddy and Jude. The inseparable teen-aged besties are skateboarders with next to no social currency. Teddy’s mom has skipped town and he’s probably been lied to that his dad is dead. Jude was adopted and lives with his hippie mom, who is a glassblower, and his kind of bitchy ...more
Tim "The Enchanter"
I abandoned this at 50 pages. I wasn't enjoy the tone of the story and could not relate to the characters or the content. If you like stories about young kids drug addict parents, no prospects who spend their day wandering aimlessly and taking drugs, then you might like this book.
emily compton
i can't believe i'm about to say this, and mean it with a negative connotation, but, this book read kind of like a degrassi episode, albeit with a bit more depth. it's got all the makings of "go there" moments one group of teenagers can have thrown at them: drugs, sex, teenage pregnancy, AIDS, jocks vs punks high school fights, runaways, dead friends, overdoses, dealing with being adopted. there were so many issues that none of them had the chance to get fleshed out too much. it is a book about ...more
Dileri
Quite awful. Felt very researched and didn't ring true for me at all. The writer throws so many topics and problems at the characters and none of them seem probable or get resolved in any sort of satisfactory way. At least I didn't spend too much time on it.
Kate
ny times top 10 of the year? i don't get it. it's intriguing and well-written, but not awe-inspiring or particularly moving. i didn't care about any of the characters. 3 stars might be too much -- 2.5?
Elizabeth
I didn't feel this book.

Set in the '80s in Vermont and New York, this story follows several main characters including Jude, Eliza, and Johnny, and their struggles during their coming of age during the era. Facing issues such as drugs, sex, and rock n' roll, we see how the characters cope.

While the premise could have been interesting, the story was too unfocused. There was SO much going on, without enough emphasis on any one thing (such as what does Jude's potential Fetal Alcohol Syndrome diagno
...more
Carrie
Reading this book was a strange twisted trip down memory lane. The author set her novel in the late 80's hardcore, straight edge scene, and it was a bit unsettling to delve into a world of which I was a part shortly after. From the fights, to the the Krishna temples, zines, and shows - the author managed to closely capture the attitudes within the scene with only a smidge of cliche. I got so caught up in the setting that I didn't pay close attention to the actual plot at first, but Jude's journe ...more
AJ Conroy
Jun 18, 2011 AJ Conroy marked it as to-read
From NPR Review:
On Aug. 6, 1988, a collection of squatters, anarchists and youths took over Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan's East Village to protest a new 1 a.m. curfew. By the time the fated hour rolled around, the gathering had turned violent as police attempted to shut down the park. The crowd was there to protect a neighborhood where, as Eleanor Henderson puts it in Ten Thousand Saints, "there were shadows to hide in. Here you didn't advertise being gay or straight or rich or poor; you j
...more
Angela
Ten Thousand Saints starts out like it could have been written by a fourteen-year-old girl. The tragic death of a teenage boy is somehow mitigated when the pregnancy resulting from a drug-addled one night hookup means that his memory will live on forever! Our young heroine, Eliza, cheerfully goes on using cocaine for half a pregnancy, but heaven help anyone who suggests she might not make the best parent. After all, the dead boy's best friend and half brother can take care of her, and how could ...more
Kate
A coming-of-age novel that doesn’t pull many punches, Ten Thousand Saints opens with Jude and Teddy getting high under the bleachers of their Vermont high school in 1987, dreaming of escape. When Teddy’s half-step-sister, Eliza, arrives for New Years Eve from distant, thrilling NYC, events are set in motion that will change all of their lives forever, as an unfortunate cocktail of drugs at a party means that Teddy doesn’t live to see ’88 (not a spoiler – this is given away pretty early on). The ...more
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“Jude's desire for girls was indiscriminate feverish and complete he wanted them all equally and he wanted them not at all. Blondes and brunettes big ones or small ones - they were cold fragile impenetrable creatures all desirable as they were undesirable all perfumed and pretty.” 7 likes
“He, Teddy and Eliza entered the room just as someone was snapping a picture: they would be forever captured in a photo they didn't belong in, blinking against the flash.” 7 likes
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