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You Deserve Nothing
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You Deserve Nothing

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  2,678 ratings  ·  419 reviews
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 f ...more
Paperback, 323 pages
Published September 15th 2011 by John Murray (first published August 30th 2011)
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Community Reviews

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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
UPDATE: November 29, 2011
Turns out this book really was based on the author's transgressions. The Will Silver character is Maksik himself.
http://jezebel.com/5863188/how-a-teac...

With this new development, I'm going to leave the book without a rating. Here is my original four-star review:

Bleak but mighty impressive.

Teacher worship. Is there anything more universal or more potentially devastating? At the International School of France, Will Silver is a beloved teacher with two especially worshi
...more
switterbug (Betsey)
In existential philosophy, the words "You deserve nothing" are not reproachful. Rather, they define human responsibility and imperative, and the fundamental freedom to choose (versus the determinist ideology of fate). Essence comes after existence, not before. Human beings encounter themselves, surge up in this world, and have the burden of choice. We are not blobs of fate and destiny powered by an outside, ontological force. We are that force; there is no karmic essence--the world, as such, is ...more
Danielle McClellan
I read this novel with no background information and loved it. Intelligent, reflective, beautifully written, excellent characters. Came on over to Goodreads to write my rave review and for the first time saw other reviews that reference the fact that this is based on a true story (view spoiler). Spent a bit of time mulling the matter ...more
oriana
I was quite electrified by this book, both because of its own power and because it was the first book I read post-Goldfinch that didn't feel hollow and superficial and awful by comparison. This is a strong, passionate, tightly coiled book, fierce and cracking, with a slew of characters (mostly teenagers) who are just bristling with frustrated rage.

The plot is for sure in the vein of Dead Poets Society: Our hero is a dashing young(ish) teacher who is by god going to change his students' lives.

A
...more
Trish

Maksik’s debut novel is not a perfect thing, though he does a magnificent job catching the idiom and inflection of high school enrollees in the International School of France (ISF), an American school in a wealthy enclave of Paris. Three voices interweave: Marie, a student learning the power of her sexuality; Will, a thirty-three year-old teaching Sartre, Camus, Faulkner, and Shakespeare in a senior English seminar; Gilad, a student in Will’s class who, with Will, witnesses a man being pushed u
...more
Michel
Dec 11, 2011 Michel rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one, unless you borrowed it: don't let the author make any more money from this!
Shelves: bio
Remember the Million Little Pieces scandal, when Frey's "memoir" turned out to be fictitious? Well this is the same thing in reverse: a "novel" which turns out to be a memoir. The appalling story of a teacher committing custodial rape on a 17 year old student.
No apology, no atonement, au contraire, she seduced him, you see, she asked for it, she felt good about it, she still dreams of him, all the usual excuses! How did Sebold, his editor and a rape victim herself, let him get away with that shi
...more
Tajma
Had I known just how good this novel would be, I would have saved it for a perfect winter day, with snow falling outside and the fireplace roaring.
Harrietthespy
On the shelf, You Deserve Nothing looks like one of those god-awful misery memoirs (usually about rape or domestic violence) ubiquitous with WHSmith bestseller lists and Richard and Judy’s tv book club. Nevertheless, I’d read the angry reviews from Maksik’s ex-students with intrigue and was seduced by Alice Sebold’s stamp of approval (not to mention Waterstone’s comparison of Donna Tartt!).

The story alternates between three protagonists:
1) Will, the ‘inspirational’ English teacher. You remembe
...more
Miriam
The characters seem almost cliched - the intellectual and loved teacher, the enlightened and different boy, the giddy infatuated girl - but I was relieved that the plot was more interesting. The main three characters each narrate portions of the book. The story revolves around the teacher, a character whom everyone else loves and admires but is somewhat of a mystery. Yet while the reader is granted insight into his mind through his own narration of the events, he doesn't reveal anything about hi ...more
Jill
Where do I start with this magnificent debut book? That it was so mesmerizing that I read 200 pages at one clip, skipping dinner, not coming up for air? That it was so brilliantly done that even now, I am mulling over some key scenes? That it combines very real characters with themes such as existentialism and myth-making and how we learn and why we learn?

Let’s start at the beginning. Will Silver is a charismatic and damaged English teacher who teaches at the International School of Paris, where
...more
Nancy Oakes
for the longer review, click on through.

The basic story is this: Will Silver is an English teacher at the International Foreign School in Paris. He introduces his students to existentialist literature in a senior seminar, and for the most part, his students look up to him in a hero-worshipping sort of way. Will loves it. But as a new school year begins, Will meets Marie, another student at the IFS, and his actions, as well as his inactions, will have a profound effect on all of those around hi
...more
Sitaphul
Wow, wow, wow. I hated the teacher at the heart of this book, and it turns out the pathology of this man, Silver, may actually be the pathology of the author himself, judging by the extensive controversy around Maksik's past teaching history and dismissal, for having an affair with a student. (Others have posted the Jezebel article below.) But metacognitively, this book can serve as a study on the droll and maybe dangerous interpretations of existentialism by someone who clearly has some mental ...more
Leah
The three stars is largely for the early chapters of YOU DESERVE NOTHING. Maksik's descriptions of lonely, stoic people wandering through Paris and a Greek seaside village are spare and lovely and obviously owe much to Hemingway. It's when the school year starts that things go downhill.

Will Silver, an English teacher at a gated, insular American high school in Paris, is recovering from a failed marriage and compensating by courting the adoration of his students. This leads, unsurprisingly, to a
...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
I don't think I can give my usual summary of this novel. I tried, and it just sounds so trite and dull. (In fact, this review was really hard to write, I've been trying for over a week and it's a mess, I apologise.) I will offer what I can and go from there, for context if nothing else. This is basically the story of a teacher and a student who have an affair - if we were to break the book down to its base plot - but I didn't know anything else, going on, and I'm not always sure I should give mo ...more
Audrey
I confess, I read this book only because my curiosity was peaked by the article about it on Jezebel, and I wanted to be able to judge it for myself.

That said, it's sickening.

The tone somehow manages to strike a balance between self-loathing and unparalleled conceit, which is a pretty staggering achievement in its own perverse way. I am, of course, reading this work through the lens provided me, that the characters involved and goodly number of the events portrayed are real. What Maksik has done
...more
Marilyn
Jun 17, 2012 Marilyn rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Educators
Recommended to Marilyn by: Danielle McClellan
I saw this reviewed by my daughter and decided to read it. I was totally engrossed for half the novel until I switched from thinking about it as literature to thinking about it as an educator. At first I was mesmerized by the main character Silver, a teacher of high school students who challenges his Seniors in an English seminar to read critically and think for themselves. The Paris setting lends itself well to the intellectual fabric of the book. On one level, I found it a fascinating read abo ...more
Featherbooks
You Deserve Nothing is set in a private international high school in Paris (the setting being yet another character in the story), with compelling first-person narrations by two students and their revered English teacher who challenges them to think about their reading in moral and philosophical terms. They try to translate his intellectual messages to their lives and suffer the universal response of teenagers to the disappointments of adulthood as their beloved teacher seems to throw away his l ...more
B the BookAddict
Oct 16, 2013 B the BookAddict rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nope - not worth it.
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Goodreads
Shelves: women-s-fiction

Sometimes, I can be out of step with what the reading public likes and dislikes. This is one of those times. The Daily Mail says this is hugely satisfying and thought-provoking: Annie Sebold says it is one of the most engaged reads I've in years. It has a 3.59 rating on Goodreads. I didn't feel these any of these things about this novel. Set in the International School of Paris, it is a story about a subject we are becoming well aware of these days: a teacher, Will, having sex with a student, Ma
...more
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
Aug 14, 2012 Kelly H. (Maybedog) marked it as not-interested  ·  review of another edition
For those out there who have condemned me for posting a review that wasn't about a book, this is about the book which may be based on a true story that victimized a child. If so, I do not wish to give this author money any more than I wanted to give OJ Simpson money for his book.

Since I am now in the limelight I feel compelled to mention that I always research the allegations of an author behaving badly before condeming them to my never read shelf. This was no exception.

Maksik has been accused
...more
Vivian
I had heard that the author might have used real events from his own life in this novel, so approached it with caution. Not to worry: Will (main character and should-know-better male half of a teacher/student relationship) doesn't come off smelling like a rose. Although it is a bit suspicious how much Marie is the sexual aggressor, and how Will (the author?) just seems to fall into becoming her lover because he doesn't care enough about life to "just say no" to her advances. Will is worshipped l ...more
Reid
Jul 29, 2014 Reid rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Reid by: Maphead
Shelves: 2014-reads, fiction
A solid read and universal story of the courage and struggle it takes to become yourself [with needed love and support] and be true to yourself and others, centering on an international high school literature class in Paris and it's charismatic handsome teacher. A handful of literature and philosophy quotes and ideas, including Sartre's Existentialism is a Humanism and Thoreau's Walden, but skillfully presented within three characters' narrations. France's version of consenting "adults" plays a ...more
Shirley
This promised much at the start but turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. I didn't much like the main character and the story just wasn't what I'd thought it would be...Gave it 3 stars but should have been 2 really...
Lindsay (Little Reader Library)
The setting is Paris, at an international high school, where we meet William Silver, a charismatic, inspiring young English teacher. Mr Silver’s classes are popular, the students find him interesting and inspiring, he challenges them to think for themselves, to question, to lead the class, to engage in discussion with him and with each other. He gets them thinking about big issues, life and death, religion, fate, through the medium of the literature they are studying. As we join the story, a suc ...more
Heather
I was fairly delighted, about a hundred pages into You Deserve Nothing, to see the squiggles from the cover image near the top of the page, presented as an excerpt from the notebook of one of the book's narrators. Gilad Fisher has just moved to Paris, and is a senior at the International School of France, where one of his classes is a seminar with Will Silver, a charismatic literature teacher. The squiggle has these words under it: "What is." And then there's this, from Gilad's notebook:
Then ben
...more
Aelel
I really liked this book. While it was a fast read that wasn't particularly complicated, it reintroduced several ideas about life and our choices that we often tend to ignore or forget. It's not even that I had a strong connection any of the characters, but I found I could understand their sense of confusion and what led them to their choices. I read this book in one sitting, and walked away from it feeling like I had something to think about, rather than a lot of the mindless books I've been re ...more
Evan
I received my advance copy of Alexander Maksik's debut novel from a publisher rep (I'm a bookseller). The rep briefly explained that the teacher (more or less the protagonist) is similar to Robin Williams' character from the film "Dead Poets Society", and that he starts an inappropriate relationship with a student, and that it gets interesting from there. Though this review refers to a pre-publication galley, I sincerely hope they publish the novel as is. It is enthralling (even if you find your ...more
Stefanie
I had high expectations for this novel as an existentialist manifesto. This is a quick, enjoyable read, with well crafted prose, yet, despite the subject matter, it lacks depth and authenticity.

The scenario creates a very human, universal experience, but the treatment lacks relationship with the human condition. The narration was so distanced that I felt very little for these characters; they recount their thoughts and actions as a plot rather than a development. At times, I felt the story was
...more
Judy

I had many high expectations for this novel. It is set in Paris, a city I love. It was given to me by a reading friend who has similar tastes. It was edited by Alice Sebold. Most of all, I had read that the author was inspired by Albert Camus's The Stranger, a book and an author I rather revere. However, as the title proclaims, I deserve nothing.

Reading the book was pure pleasure, almost guilty pleasure. What could be more enjoyable than a love story between an older man and a very young woman,
...more
Tiffany
Very engaging read, as Alice Sebold's testimonial on the front cover says. However, when I found out midway through reading this book that it is based on the author's real life experiences, it lost a large part of its power for me. The story's power rests in it's being made up, it rests in the author's attempt to create a hypothetical situation that explores the large themes of education and of life. The fact that almost every event and every character is based on the author's real experiences r ...more
Jut Mitchel
"You Deserve Nothing" is a superb novel, so good in fact it is hard to believe it is Maksik's first. His writing is assured, his language is pristine, and his characters are so alive that I have not been able to get them out of my mind.

The story is told from three convincing points of view and Maksik is able to inhabit his characters with such thorough understanding and precision that I came to care deeply for each one. One of the characters is a teen-aged girl and it is a testament to the writ
...more
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Alexander Maksik is the author of the novels, You Deserve Nothing (Europa, 2011) and A Marker to Measure Drift (Knopf, 2013). A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, his writing has appeared in Harper’s, Tin House, Harvard Review, The New York Times Magazine, Salon and Narrative Magazine, among others and has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

He lives in New York.
More about Alexander Maksik...
A Marker to Measure Drift

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“Cowards spend their lives alone. Either with people who can't hurt them, or with no one at all.” 19 likes
“Anyone you can fool isn't worth loving.” 12 likes
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