*Starred Review* The Roaring Orchards School for Troubled Teens in upstate New York is a troubled institution. Its founder and headmaster, Aubrey, resembles a cult leader, and while he insists that teens need structure and limits, interpreting his rules isn’t easy; the struggle to win privileges often pits the students against one another. Anchored by the slowly growing friendship between students Benjamin and Tidbit (aka Sarah), the story is told by Benjamin, in recollection, informed by what he says others told him, so it becomes both a first-person narrative and an ensemble piece (there are many scenes in which Benjamin is not present). This is not your usual coming-of-age tale. Aubrey’s arcane, arbitrary form of therapy (the book’s title comes from his list of seven approved feelings) and its attendant vocabulary evoke George Saunders’ eye for the absurdity of bureaucracy and his ear for jargon, too. There are also strong echoes of Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But despite the dark humor, Josefson humanizes his characters beautifully. Their longing to connect, and their confusion at where they find themselves—students and faculty alike—is urgently palpable. The prose is matter-of-fact, even placid, and studded with perfectly phrased gems, a cool surface to a work that is rich in feeling. A wonderful and noteworthy debut. --Keir Graff
New York Times Editors’ Choice
Booklist Editors’ Choice
"Dan Josefson is a writer of astounding promise and That's Not a Feeling
is a bold, funny, mordant, and deeply intelligent debut."
—David Foster Wallace
, author of Infinite Jest
"If That's Not a Feeling
were a fifth novel, it would be a triumph. As a first novel, it is an astonishment. Dan Josefson sails along the scary edge of perfection in this book, and does so with style, empathy, compassion, humor, and wisdom."
—Tom Bissell, author of The Father of All Things
“Deft, tempered prose...unornamented, but never flat or blunted, so that the characters, not the sentences, heat the pages.”—New York Times Book Review
“The prose is matter-of-fact, even placid, and studded with perfectly phrased
gems, a cool surface to a work that is rich in feeling. A wonderful and noteworthy debut.”—Booklist, Starred Review
“Funny at times, and more than a little sad, the book’s form perfectly mirrors Benjamin’s profound sense of dislocation and uncertainty. This is a powerful, haunting look at the alternate universe of an unusual therapeutic community.” —Library Journal, Starred Review
“Metaphor is a hell of a weapon in Dan Josefson's debut That's Not a Feeling
...a funny, humane, egalitarian, and gently challenging book, one to quote and roar over, and one that gets better and stranger as it goes.”—SF Weekly, "Instant Classic"
"This is a book of enormous intelligence, and even more heart."
, author of Like You'd Understand, Anyway
“An incredibly daring experiment in characterization, and one that will surely reward many rereadings.”—School Library Journal
, "Adult Books for Teens"
“It’s difficult to read this novel and not feel challenged, moved, devastated, and excited for Josefson’s next book.”—Tottenville Review
“Not only is this novel a humorous narrative adventure, it’s also deeply moving, subtle in its approach, and beautiful in its execution.... A vivid portrait of human frailty and perseverance, one that makes us question what breaks us, what heals us, and what makes that journey worth it.”
—Tethered by Letters (blog)