This brilliant novel takes what could be considered a terribly cliche premise, a teacher falling in love with his student, and gives the story a dark sparkle-- sexy, dangerous, and very much alive. Will Silver teaches English at an international high school for the children of privileged, wealthy ex-pats in Paris. The story is told through three voices, Will, Marie, the girl he sleeps with, and Gilad, another student in his class with a wrecked and unsteady home life. As a teacher, Will expects his students to act independently and take responsibility, inspiring them and challenging them with difficult texts and ideas. When Will begins the affair with Marie, everything he taught them comes into question. Impressively written with intelligence and passion; Maksik is a writer to watch.— Stef Schmidt
September 2011 Indie Next List
“This is a brilliant first novel about a teacher at an international high school in Paris and his relationships with, and influence on, his students and colleagues. The story is told by several narrators whose distinct voices contribute to the depth of the conflict between idealism and reality, each vividly presented in these seductive pages. I couldn't put it down.”
— Lanetta Parks, The Compleat Bookseller, Chestertown, MD
Set in Paris, at an international high school catering to the sons and daughters of wealthy families, You Deserve Nothing is a gripping story of power, idealism, and morality. William Silver is a talented and charismatic young teacher whose unconventional methods raise eyebrows among his colleagues and superiors. His students, however, are devoted to him. His teaching of Camus, Faulkner, Sartre, Keats and other kindred souls breathe life into their sense of social justice and their capacities for philosophical and ethical thought. But unbeknownst to his adoring pupils, Silver proves incapable of living up to the ideals he encourages in others. Emotionally scarred by failures in his personal life and driven to distraction by the City of Light's overpowering carnality and beauty, Silver succumbs to a temptation that will change the course of his life. His fall will render him a criminal in the eyes of some, and all too human in the eyes of others. In Maksik's stylish prose, Paris is sensual, dazzling and dangerously seductive. It serves as a fitting backdrop for a dramatic tale about the tension between desire and action, and about the complex relationship that exists between our public and private selves.
About the Author
Alexander Maksik is the recipient of a Truman Capote Fellowship and a Teaching/Writing fellowship from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He's presently the Provost's Postgraduate Writing Fellow at the University of Iowa. You Deserve Nothing is his first novel. He lives in Paris and Iowa City.
“One of the most engaged reads I’ve had in years.”—Alice Sebold
“Alexander Maksik deftly evokes the beauty and pathos of Paris, and the story of Will, Gilad and Marie—each compelled towards moral and sexual awakening—is at once dark and luminous. This is a book to be read all at once with a glass of wine in a café or a cup of tea while tucked safely in bed.”—A.M. Homes
“You Deserve Nothing is a powerful, absorbing novel about a charismatic expatriate teacher and the students whose lives he transforms, for better and worse. Alexander Maksik is an unusually gifted writer.”—Tom Perrotta
“You Deserve Nothing rings true from first page to last. Here is a writer who understands why the artful telling of a difficult story is a brave and important thing to do. Read this book.”—John Burnham Schwartz
“A provocative, constantly surprising, and original novel. This is a thrilling debut.”—Susanna Moore
“Maksik’s superb novel takes on the most fundamental question—how are we supposed to live?—with a freshness and urgency that are nothing short of masterful. This is a gorgeous book, as honest and rich a depiction of life’s contradictions as I’ve encountered in many years.”—Ben Fountain
“Alexander Maksik's first novel, You Deserve Nothing, is a thoroughly engaging, passionate, and challenging read that finely walks the line between morality and amorality. In a society, and at a time, when individual identity is so closely tied to collective narcissism, Maksik's novel asks what are the true sources of selfworth? And how shall we live?”—Tom Jenks, editor, Narrative magazine