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Good Kids: A Novel Hardcover – January 29, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

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When Josh and Khadijah are 15, their parents (his father, her mother) fall in love. Divorces ensue. In their wake, the two good kids make a pact: they will never cheat on anyone. Following the divorces, the two drift apart. Josh becomes a rock musician, and Khadijah, an academic. Flash forward 13 years, and the two are reunited. But both are now engaged. So what will become of their pact? Nugent’s first novel (he’s also the author of the memoir American Nerd, 2008) offers an unhurried look at twenty-first-century relationships—love, family, friendship—all of which are sometimes uneasy, sometimes fractured, sometimes faithful. Nugent’s characters’ lives are closely observed and psychologically astute. The pace of the story, however, is sometimes too deliberate, in part because of the inclusion of extraneous detail. One example: “She pulled her laptop from the cloth, tangerine-colored case with zebra stickers that a fan in Singapore had made her.” This sort of thing may help define character, or it may even be satirically intended, but, whichever, it stops readers in their tracks. This aside, however, fans of character-driven literary fiction will find much to enjoy in Nugent’s novel. --Michael Cart

Review

“This dazzling first novel is many things at once: an incisive examination of class and politics, a richly comic portrayal of humiliation and self-loathing, and a guided tour of love in its varied forms. Benjamin Nugent's writing is alive with intelligence, authenticity, and angst. Fans of Jonathan Franzen, you just may have found your new favorite writer.” —Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Prep and American Wife


Good Kids is the work of a writer with a great gift for comic timing. There's so much life and love in this book, all its failure, all its accidental glory. A superb first novel, as funny as it is ultimately moving.” —Peter Orner, author of Love and Shame and Love

“Benjamin Nugent’s Good Kids is a literary romantic comedy, a post-sentimental sentimental education, and a cautionary tale for both divorced parents and their kids who vow never to be like them. It is terrifically smart and funny—and catchy, like a hit song. Reader, pace yourself.” —Michelle Huneven, author of Blame

“[A] modern-day rebuttal of the fairy tale romance.” (Boston Globe)

“Nugent has an excellent ear for the clashing notes of our popular cacophony.” (Harper's)

“Benjamin Nugent's fiction debut represents my Millennial generation perfectly…. a spot-on portrayal.” (Lindsay Deutsch USA Today)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (January 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439136599
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439136591
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,527,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts, and now I have an apartment in Brooklyn but I spend more time in Los Angeles. When I was a nerdy child I would think, 'how come there's not a history of this name people shout at me when they throw things at me?' I started out as a reporter at Time, and I've written for The New York Times Magazine, Time, New York, and n+1, among other places. My favorite part of writing American Nerd was tracking down my friends from junior high and interviewing them about their lives and how they remembered our clique.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Larry Hoffer on February 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
To slightly corrupt a cliché, the sins of the parents are visited upon the children. Josh Paquette and Khadijah Silverglate-Dunn are 15-year-old high school classmates who one afternoon spy Josh's father kissing Khadijah's mother in a natural foods store. The realization that their parents are having an affair creates a strange bond and a tenuous friendship between the two, although Josh finds himself wanting more from their relationship. One afternoon the two sign a vow never to cheat while in a relationship, and although Khadijah and her mother move away from town shortly thereafter, both are committed to keeping this vow.

As he enters adulthood, Josh finds himself becoming a musician, drawn into any world that doesn't resemble his father's socialist-leaning life in which dreams are talked about constantly but never pursued. Josh follows his new band to Los Angeles, and after the semi-successful group breaks up a few years later, he meets Julie, the host of a wry animal show on a local cable network. After a series of comical miscommunications, the two begin a serious relationship which survives the couple's serious-but-playful banter as well as Josh's inability to pursue any type of career. (He's able to sustain himself somewhat on royalty checks from his band's one hit song, which is used frequently in the entertainment world.)

Soon, the two get engaged and plan a future together, complete with three children. But the strains of coming from two different backgrounds start to pull at them, and their problems aren't helped when Khadijah, whom Josh hasn't seen in 13 years, comes to Los Angeles to visit her fianc&233;, one of Josh'a acquaintances.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on January 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A son measures himself against his father, intent on avoiding mistakes that he inevitably repeats. Benjamin Nugent gives that classic theme a postmodern spin in Good Kids, a novel that encourages the reader to guess how far the apple will fall from the parental tree.

Good Kids begins in 1994. Josh and Kadijah bond after they witness Josh's father kissing Kadijah's mother in an organic food store. The forbidden knowledge provokes the growth of "a conspiratorial feeling" and kindles a romantic spark. Josh's dad, Linus, a professor of political science, sees himself as a virtuous person, steeped in the values of the 1960s. Josh considers his dad's infidelity to be less than virtuous and makes a vow (initiated by Kadijah) never to follow in those footsteps. The reader knows, of course, that whether Josh keeps that vow will be the novel's central question.

Linus often talks about the new life he intends to build, a life devoted to writing serious essays, but always seems to be pulled in different directions, none of which involve Josh, who realizes that his dad is "just not that into me." Josh moves to New York, hoping the city will transform him into a rock musician or, failing that, allow him to "construct a shell so complex and subtle and bewitching that people more sure of themselves ... would mistake me as one of their own and take me in, showing me by example how to be like them." To avoid being trapped in an unsatisfying career like his dad, Josh joins a band and chases his dream to California. The band provides him with a sense of family, with predictable results.

Ten years pass in a blur before the story again comes into focus. When Josh meets Julie on a blind date, they converse with irony-laden, sparkling wit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eric Selby on May 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I ordered this novel, I did so because of two of the five-star reviews. And I really tried for a while to get through it. But I just couldn't. The little piece about Josh and his father moving their belongings from the camp, the piece about Josh and Khadijah when they were teenagers seeing their "Dads" (his father, her mother) kissing was interesting. But then suddenly Khadijah is gone, and Josh who is the first person narrator, wanders around the United States, visiting his father in NYC, now with a new woman in his life, and then going to LA. And there he gets involved with a band. And then I said to myself, "Where is the plot? And why am I just not interested in anything Josh says as the narrator?" And since I saw no evidence of a plot and found Josh so uninteresting, I decided to just sit here and tell possible readers you might want to skip this one.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By K. on May 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person. However I missed the point of this book entirely. I got Good Kids thinking it would be about enduring love, commitment, passion, or even childhood bonds. Instead I got a story about a couple of kids who share an experience and make a pact, allowing it to dictate their actions well into adulthood. The worst part for me was the feeling that nothing was ever really resolved in this book. The main character made his (poor) choices - and in the end I was like "For what?" Very unsatisfying read: it went along for quite awhile about little to nothing, and then it just ended in the most disappointing manner. The way it panned out, I almost felt robbed. Reading an entire book for it to end on such a silly, inconsequential note was maddening. I can't really recommend this one, as I couldn't even grasp the underlying message of the story (and not because it was too profound). Your time would be better spent on a different novel; and that is one thing I can know for sure.
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