Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Good Kings Bad Kings” as Want to Read:
Good Kings Bad Kings
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Good Kings Bad Kings

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  2,164 ratings  ·  389 reviews
Inside the halls of ILLC, an institution for juveniles with disabilities, we discover a place that is deeply different from and yet remarkably the same as the world outside. Nussbaum crafts a multifaceted portrait of a way of life hidden from most of us. In this isolated place on Chicago's South Side, friendships are forged, trust is built, and love affairs begin. It's in ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 28th 2013 by Algonquin Books (first published March 1st 2013)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

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

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,164 ratings  ·  389 reviews

Sort order
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
It must feel heady to receive an award for your first novel almost a year before it's published. Susan Nussbaum received the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction in June of 2012. The prize promotes “fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships.” Good Kings Bad Kings is a perfect fit for the award.

In the voices of residents and employees, Nussbaum presents life in a state-run nursing home for juveniles with disabilities
Book club read #4, Feb 2017.

"...not only shines a light on a segment of society often ignored, in art as well as life, but also a really great read."
-The Washington Post

More than shines a light, this book exposes what's wrong and what is right with the whole system, specifically nursing homes for disabled children. Kids are abused, neglected, some die -- even one is too many -- and others grow up within the system hoping some day their lives might go back to normal, on the outside, just wanting
Diane S ☔
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: roadrallyteamb
A group of mentally and physically challenged young people take center stage in this novel. It is set in a nursing home on the South Side of Chicago and is told in alternating chapters between seven characters, the patients and those who work for the company that administers the facility. The author herself is wheelchair bound after a serious accident so she knows what she writes. This book has an agenda but it is so skillfully rendered that one is entertained or indignant, but not annoyed.

One o
Alex Templeton
Aug 29, 2013 rated it liked it
I have very mixed feelings about this book, which is narrated by a cast of characters involved in a public home for teenagers with disabilities in Illinois. On one hand, I feel very positively about it, in the sense that Nussbaum, herself a disability activist, does a great job humanizing the lives and the plights of these often-forgotten and dehumanized individuals. She does an excellent job creating a variety of believable voices. However, (and contrary to the views of an interviewer of Nussba ...more
Dec 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2013
I have been anxiously waiting for 8 months to read this book. In June I watched Barbara Kingsolver give Susan Nussbaum the Bellwether award and Susan's inspirational and emotional speech left most of us in tears. Since then I've been pestering the publisher's rep for a galley and received it the other day. So far I am absolutely loving it and hope it continues to be fabulous so I can recommend it to everyone I know.

Update: It took a bit to sort out the various characters as the story is told fro
~✡~Dαni(ela) ♥ ♂♂ love & semi-colons~✡~
2.5 stars

Well, this is awkward. How can you give a less-than-stellar rating to a book that deals with youth nursing homes and disabilities? It's just that this novel was so cookie-cutter and predictable. All the bad happens (rape, kick-backs, abuse, mistreatment, etc.). And some good happens too. The characters are not well developed, and everything is wrapped up too neatly.

I appreciate that Nussbaum did her research regarding the "System" and its treatment of the handicapped in Chicago, but th
SheriC (PM)
Proponents of privatizing public services argue that, by managing operations like a private business, these services can be provided much more efficiently. So what is the natural outcome when residential/custodial care is outsourced to a corporation whose board demands a healthy profit, and profits are driven by keeping as many beds filled for as little cost as possible? The goal is certainly not to try to support families with disabled children, to keep them at home instead of in residential ca ...more
May 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a very realistic view of private residences for disabled youth. They are created to serve children with physical and or psychological and mental challenges and quickly become cash cows for unscrupulous investors and greedy, lazy doctors. I saw this first hand almost 40 years ago when I worked in a similar institution which employed "milieu therapy," which means no therapy.

Susan Nussbaum, the author, has the advantage of being born able and later on, being hit by a bus. She is able to bre
Oct 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book knocked the wind out of me. Told from the perspectives of 7 different people connected to the "System" of disabled care in Illinois, this is a disturbing work of fiction. In fact, I had to keep reminding myself that it is a socially-responsible work of fiction because it felt all too real.

Corruption. Abuse. Love and friendship. Neediness. Disappointment. These are all present and mixed together through the eyes of patients, caretakers, activists and even a recruiter (a role I never kne
3.75 stars. I enjoyed this book. It was a fast read but not an easy read due to the fact that most every scene takes place inside an institution for disabled youth. Our health care system is wrong on so many levels that I've lost track. This is a perfect example of many of the problems. And the biggest victims are the sick people in need of quality care. However, as long as a few at the top continue to get rich because of it, the system will continue to nourish itself.

Each character had his/her
Stephanie (aka WW)
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book presents life in a juvenile nursing home, from the points of view of several of the most colorful residents and employees of the home. It could be depressing in the wrong writer’s hands, but Nussbaum infuses the story with humor and positivity. Recommended for a socially-aware read.
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Writing this review wasn't easy for me, because reading this book felt very personal. In my life prior to my current career I've worked in a lot of nursing homes and one center for independent living. I worked with adults for a long time before finally finding school psychology. My life experience had a great impact on how I reacted to this book.

Let's start with the characters. With the exception of one non-perspective character, I have worked with every single one of these characters. While to
Jul 05, 2013 rated it liked it

Damn. Am I going to be the ogre that trashes a fledgling author's debut effort? Not exactly, although despite winning the Barbara Kingsolver seal of social responsibility award (what did she win? Artisanal Ewe Cheese? Free range quail eggs?) a full year before it was published, Ms. Nussbaum's Good Kings Bad Kings is, I suppose, an eye-opening look at the assisted-living industry. Ms. Nussbaum takes Upton Sinclair-sized scythe swipes at a specific facility in Chicago which helped disabled teens.
Saleh MoonWalker
Onvan : Good Kings Bad Kings - Nevisande : Susan Nussbaum - ISBN : 1616202637 - ISBN13 : 9781616202637 - Dar 336 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2013
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
When you're "award" of the state, with physical or mental challenges, you have few–if any guarantees–in life. But chances are high that while living within the System, you will face uncertainty, alienation, powerlessness, neglect and/or abuse. And you will likely be the witness to or victim of traumatic events that will greatly impact your life.

It will take creative thinking, a sense of humor and willingness to break the rules to survive this broken system. With resilience and earned trust, you
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a quick read - I enjoyed the story, the characters and the fact that it got me thinking in a whole different way.
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

This book takes a look at the institutions that serve the disabled children. This is, I think, a really important subject, and I agree with a lot of what the author is saying in the book; however, the actual book part was sometimes lacking for me.

First, Nussbaum uses seven different narrators to tell the story. And yeah, yeah, didn't I just give my high rating to a book that uses multiple first-person points of view? Yes. I did. In the case of The Brides of Rollrock Island, Margo Lanaga
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
The story whirls in and around a cast of characters who find themselves either working or living at The Illinois Learning and Life Skills Centre, their narratives are in first person and told alternately in different chapters. The centre caters for eighty young institutionalised crips.
You learn of their days there and their mannerisms. The way the centre worked in this story has you think on the more serious problems out here in the real world dealing with the way the vulnerable and sick are som
Mrs. Palmer
Sep 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A book featuring disabled characters, characters with mental illnesses, characters of various ethnicities. They're written in a way so that you see their humanity.No pity parties or "inspirational" stories here. The author herself is disabled, and she makes it clear that the characters in the book are not defined by their disabilities. They are real people with desires (big surprise, right?)
The story takes place in an institution for children with severe disabilities in Chicago. I am sure it is
Samantha Hoffman
Jul 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My main problem with Good Kings Bad Kings is that I couldn't put it down. It's a mesmerizing story of disabled kids living in an institution in Chicago, how they cope with their environment and what goes on behind the scenes.
There are numerous characters - each chapter is told from a different point of view - and at first it was tough to keep track of everyone. But I soon got to know them so well that it seemed they were real. Nussbaum does a great job of giving each person his or her own voice
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This novel broke my heart. It has been five days since I finished it and in that time I have started and finished another book, but my mind is still with Good Kings Bad Kings. The realities it depicts are hard, sad, complicated, and realistic. Normally, narration styles that switch points of view frustrate me, because one or two viewpoints I care less about or I don't feel work. But this time, I just can't let any of the characters go.
Shannon Dyer
May 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Round up to 4.5 stars. A very emotional read, allowing us to see into the lives of institutionalized youth and those who care for them. Parts were so sad, but, overall, I found it quite empowering.
Miss Bookiverse
Die Vorstellung aufgrund eines Unfalls plötzlich dauerhaft im Rollstuhl zu sitzen, finden viele wahrscheinlich erst mal richtig grauenhaft. Aber wieso ist das eigentlich so? Von den offensichtlichen Einschränkungen und Lebensumstellungen mal abgesehen, wieso haben wir solche Angst vor einer körperlichen Behinderung? Ich vermute viel hat mit der Darstellung von Behinderungen in der westlichen Gesellschaft zu tun. Das Paradebeispiel ist natürlich Me Before You, das ohne wenn und aber propagiert: “ ...more
Janet Lynch
Sep 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was sad and depressing, mixed in with a little hope. The story was told in many voices from a nursing home for disabled teenagers. I liked that the voices were so varied, ranging from the disabled teens, to adults that worked there and even included Michelle, whose job it was to fill the beds in the nursing home by getting parents to commit their children. While reading you wanted to believe that places like the nursing home didn’t really exist, but deep down I know that unfortunately ...more
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is just wonderful. There is darkness and injustice in it, and plenty of it will make you angry about the reality on which the fiction is based. But the voices of the kids—in particular, the one whose narration begins and ends the book—are so real, so honest, they fill you with hope. I usually don’t like it when authors write slang/dialect phonetically, but in this case, there was no other way to write the story than to allow the voices of those in it to present their lives for themselv ...more
Amanda Harrison
Sometimes you get a book that you feel like must have won an award because it covered a difficult subject matter or had a different perspective on the world, but was not ultimately deserving. This is not one of those books. Good Kings Bad Kings does have hard hitting punches, but wow, the voice, the characters, the story. This is why books are written.

This will change your perspective on people with disabilities and the system that controls them. I was recommending this book before I even finis
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
A well written and emotional read about teens with disabilities and the institutions they are living in. Very sad but the spirit of these teens was uplifting and promising. Kudos to the author for being brutally honest in depicting situations that are unfortunately probably true.
Glennys Egan
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Devoured this. It told stories we don’t hear about often enough from perspectives we rarely hear from and it broke my heart but also managed to put it back together just a bit. A quick, well-worth-it read.
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loved the voices in this book. So entertaining! The ending was a little abrupt for me but such a moving story.
Barbara Bryan
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
3 1/2 Stars. This book read YA to me but wasn’t classified as such. Picked for book club or I wouldn’t have found it. The book has several narrators, short chapters and moves along quickly. Taking place in a nursing home for youth with disabilities the voices were new, different and intriguing. The overall sense of nursing homes was depressing and very disheartening as it was meant to be.
Sad, funny and peopled with some wonderful characters I recommend this book for a quick but not light read.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Hungry Ghost (Tales of the Pack, #2)
  • No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement
  • Night-Vision: Illuminating War & Class on the Neo-Colonial Terrain
  • Rules for Becoming a Legend
  • Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life
  • A Disability History of the United States
  • Five Minutes in Heaven
  • The Spirit Keepers: The Spirit Series #1
  • The Disability Studies Reader
  • Don't Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back
  • Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body
  • The Last Generation: Prose and Poetry
  • Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon-Based Life Forms to Watch Out For (DtWOF, #10)
  • Finlater
  • Stilettos and Steel
  • Even You
  • My Kind of Crazy: Living in a Bipolar World
  • Foreign Identity
Susan Nussbaum’s plays have been widely produced. In 2008 she was cited by the Utne Reader as one of ‘50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World’ for her work with girls with disabilities. Good Kings, Bad Kings is her first novel. She lives in Chicago, America.
“Once you laugh with a person? That person is your friend.” 1 likes
“Once I make a decision, I stick to it.” 0 likes
More quotes…