In his novel You Deserve Nothing, Alexander Maksik sets out to make the reader engage in deep questions of ethics, philosophy, morality, our ideals and expectations , and how we think we should live and how we actually live. He presents the debates in a clear and direct manner in the form of classroom literary discussions, and then tells the stories of the characters around these lessons. The lives of the characters intertwine neatly with the topics presented making it easy for the reader to use the characters as a case study for the questions being asked. Maksik explores territory that has been discussed at length, and yet never grows tiresome or old. He demonstrates how everything we do and every choice we make can be questioned and examined.
My response to the book was one of self-reflection. While Mr. Silver and his students come to conclusions about the ideas they encounter in the works of authors such as Sartre and Camus, I couldn’t help but think about my own opinions on the theories proposed. The characters are also very human and relatable. As they encounter tricky situations and have to make touch choices, I thought of what I would have done, or would have liked to have done in their place. This caused me to assess situations where I have lived up to my own ideals and expectations of myself in my life, and when I haven’t, and more importantly why I have or have not.
You Deserve Nothing is directed at an audience that likes character-driven novels and enjoys wrestling with philosophical questions. While perhaps a bit simplistic for true philosophy buffs, it offers a very clear introduction to those who might be interested in the genre. There is also enough intrigue for those more attracted to plot-driven novels. The novel is a quick and engaging read with captivating characters. It is also full of great little details about Paris that will stir up feelings of nostalgia in anyone who has been there.
Reviewed by Heather Larson