Wednesday, 4 July 2012

You Deserve Nothing

Title: You Deserve Nothing

Author: Alexander Maksik

Number of pages: 320

Started: 2 July 2012

Finished: 4 July 2012

Opening words:

You live in one place.  The next day you live somewhere else. It isn’t complicated. You get on a plane. You get off. People are always talking about home. Their houses. Their neighborhoods. In movies, it’s where they came from, where they came up, the hood. The movies are full of that stuff. The street. The block. The diner. Italian movies. Black movies. Jewish movies. Brooklyn or whatever.

Plot summary:

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.

What I thought:

What to say about this book?  I have to say that before I even opened the cover to the novel, I was not convinced by the title.  It struck me as somewhat melodramatic and the type of title a teenager might choose for an essay.  My opinion did not really change as the novel progressed.  I found the scenes set in the school classes to be overly dramatised and didn’t find them convincing – I just didn’t believe what was written.  I didn’t find it credible.  Not because I don’t think there are teachers that try and inspire or challenge their students, but because I thought the way it was written was trying too hard to be profound.

To me this was a book that might be ideal for a teenager in terms of style and some of the content, but given the whole “teacher has an affair with student” scenario, perhaps not the ideal novel to recommend to a teenager.

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