There is the illusion of fiction and the reality of fact. “You Deserve Nothing” begins as light fare. It is a story revolving around a teacher who is mostly beloved by an otherwise disaffected class of rich ex-pat kids at an international school in Paris. A “To Sir With Love” for latch-keys Mr. Silver Socratic teaching of Sartre, Camus, and the Old Testament, challenges his self-absorbed, or otherwise ignored, literature senior seminar class to question themselves and life. He is adored by the girls, and admired by most of the boys. He treats them as if they were adults, ignoring some institutional rules. The story is conveyed through three narratives: Mr. Silver, and two of the students, Marie and Gilad. Different perspectives of the same events are conveyed directly by these narrators, and other subordinate characters.
Heroes are defined within boundaries. The class comes to understand this as they ultimately realize Mr. Silver has his limitations. It is a coming of age story that is best told through Gilad, although the plot develops around Mr. Silver’s affair with Marie. Alexander Maksik, who had a Teaching/Writing fellowship from the Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, is non-judgmental in this debut novel. He permits the reader to draw their own conclusions about the characters and morality. Some of his choices are surprising, refusing to take the easy route.
By the conclusion you realize this book is more than crudités. It would make an excellent young adult reading choice for middle class and upper class kids. I don’t believe that most inner city poorer kids would be able to relate to it and might, like the character Ariel, believe the whole thing is crap. Whether it is or isn’t is a thematic matter of perspective. I doubt schools would make it assigned reading given the relationship and in some districts, its intellectual exploration of faith.
It is a very quick read and not disappointing.