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You Deserve Nothing: A Novel Paperback – August 30, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"A superb debut novel."
-The Sunday Times

"With writing that is reminiscent of James Salter's in its sensuality, Francine Prose's capacious inquiry into difficult moral questions and Martin Amis's loose-limbed evocation of the perils of youth."
-The Christian Science Monitor

"Maksik depicts [his story] fearlessly--and brilliantly, with graceful exactitude.
-The Daily Beast (One of the Best Debuts of the Fall)

"The book is just too damned good to put down."
-The Stranger

"Maksik, in his account of adolescent yearning and grown-up fallibility, does something like what Hemingway did in his non-debut memoir, "A Moveable Feast" - he vividly evokes a destination for generations of foreign seekers."
-San Francisco Chronicle 

"A novel rivetingly plotted and beautifully written. . . [Maksik] writes about the moral ambiguity of Will's circumstances with dazzling clarity and impressive philosophical rigor."
-The New York Times

"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

About the Author

Alexander Maksik's first novel, You Deserve Nothing was published in 2011 by Europa Editions (US) and John Murray Publishers/Hachette (UK). Subsequent translations will appear in Italy, Spain, Germany, Russia, Korea, and The Netherlands.

His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Tin House, The New York Times, Harvard Review, The New York Times Magazine and Narrative Magazine, among others.

A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he's presently the Provost's Postgraduate Writing Fellow in fiction at the University of Iowa.

He lives in Paris and Iowa City.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Europa Editions; 1 edition (August 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1609450485
  • ISBN-13: 978-1609450489
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #516,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alexander Maksik is the author of the novels You Deserve Nothing and A Marker to Measure Drift, named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2013. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The 2015 Pushcart Prize Anthology, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Harper's, Tin House, Harvard Review, Condé Nast Traveler (where he is a contributing editor), The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Salon and Narrative Magazine, among other publications and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he is the recipient of fellowships from the Truman Capote Literary Trust and The Corporation of Yaddo.


Twitter: @AlexanderMaksik

Instagram: @AlexanderMaksik

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

254 of 298 people found the following review helpful By s.steen on November 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Oct. 13, 2011
Dear Ms. Sebold,
I am writing in regard to the novel, "You Deserve Nothing," recently publish by Tonga at your selection. I'm sure you already know everything I'm going to say, but I could not in good conscience let it go unsaid. I was a student in the author's senior AP English class at the American School of Paris, 2005-2006, as well as a close friend of the girl he had an affair with during that time. I wonder if you had done much research into the author's past or his time at the American School of Paris (ASP). I would like to think that you may not have published this manuscript as a novel had you known it was strictly true.
It's not a bad book, I read it in one 5 hour sitting; but then again I had the advantage of already knowing the entire story. Within the author's retelling of my senior year of high school every plot point of significance was lifted directly from reality. The characters can all be generally identified as real teachers and students, all the major events are true, and the chronology is accurate.
Everyone from ASP has been talking non-stop about this book from the first press-release on. Rumors and speculation have been making the rounds, and now that we all have read it, there is more gossip still. This book stirred up a lot of unnecessary and unwanted memories for everyone, especially for the young woman in question. I happen to know that she has received emails from former teachers inquiring how she "feels" about the book. I am simply bringing this up as evidence that I am by no means the only one who acknowledges the extreme similarities between the book and reality. And because of the lack of disguise, there is speculation about what is factual and what is fiction.
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166 of 199 people found the following review helpful By KH on November 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
To his credit, Alexander Maksik (or Mr. Maksik as I knew him) came out with a book only 5 years after his release from his job at ASP.

Until this book started getting publicity, I and most other students at ASP hadn't heard or seen anything about him since he didn't show up to teach that one day. And on that same day it was pretty much revealed to all of us that 1. Mr Maksik got fired the day before, or rather, forced to resign, because 2. he was sleeping with a student, 3. Yes, it was that girl, the smart one who was often seen giving announcements at the beginning of the school day for some of the academic clubs she was involved in. A nice girl. And unfortunately 4. She had to have an abortion. This was also an experience available to be read about on his blog soon after, which is now a similar excerpt in the book.

Cut to 5 years later, after a good number of us have heard he's got a book coming out, being edited by an author that most of us know of, and certainly we're impressed. Of course it must not have anything to do with that time he was fired for sleeping with that girl. Wouldn't that be funny? It would be hilarious. But then soon enough the synopsis is revealed to be about "a high school teacher at an international school in Paris." More jokes ensue, hahaha, what if he wrote about you know, his EXACT situation?

Then the book came out. It wasn't hilarious. It was sickening.

Unfortunately, while reading it there wasn't just a feeling of familiarity. It felt like reading an actual written record of that time, that particular school year. As if it was his diary and his fantasy of what Marie was thinking. Things "Mr. Silver" said in class, a particular analogy that he used ME as an example for, had happened.
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134 of 167 people found the following review helpful By ASP Student on November 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book may be well written or have various admirable literary qualities but every reader should know when they start reading it that it is based on a true story. Alexander Maksik was a teacher at the American School of Paris and was released in 2006 after having an affair with a student. I was a student at ASP at the time and remember the scandal. To highly rate this book or even buy it is on some level acknowledging or approving that what this man did was acceptable. It was not. The student was underage and the affair was highly inappropriate. Please do not mistake the contents of the novel for a creative story by a deep and thoughtful author but a true story by a former teacher who finds it appropriate to sleep with his underage students.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Otter on July 19, 2013
Format: Paperback
SUMMARY: The book is very readable, and it's possible to care about the characters very deeply. But there are flaws intrinsic to the book, perhaps illuminated by the author's biography.

Reading _You Deserve Nothing,_ I had no notion about its author's past, so that wasn't much of a factor in my response: when I got around to reading about all that, it explained a few things that I found off-putting in an otherwise decent book.

I found the descriptions to be fairly lush (if somewhat arch).

And I did care about what happened to the characters. Maksik is, as he says about teachers, partly a performer, and I was interested in the truthfulness with which he captured certain aspects of a teacherly soul. He explores the very common way in which teacherly performance can become self-involved as the performance becomes a mask one cannot take off.

Then, too, his handling of (really, rewriting of) Camus is a literary treat, or was until I stopped to think about it.... more on that below.

But I was quietly troubled by a literary flaw that may best be called narcissism. The characters (and the author) are all pretty much infatuated with the protagonist, and criticism of him only comes from Philistines and spurned crushes. I found it interesting that the characters who actually dislike Will do not get to narrate events: we only get to see him from the perspective of conflicted adoration, as he sees himself.

This unanimous approval with which all of the major characters agree that Will Silver is a bonanza is not seriously contradicted by his shortcomings: these become occasions of pity, not complexity.
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