You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik (2011)

 “Teachers in movies are always leaping onto tables and sacrificing their lives for their students and their love of literature but the truth is that you rarely, rarely take a class from a teacher who cares. It’s just unrealistic. How many people could walk into a classroom year after year and weep for ”Ode on a Grecian Urn”? That’s why the ones who stay are so often some of the most depressing people you’ve ever met in your life. It has nothing to do with their age. They’ve stayed because of their disposition – bitter, bored, lacking in ambition, lonely and mildly insane. With few exceptions, these are the people who are capable of staying in a school. This is what it takes to teach for half a life-time. The ones who care, who love the subjects, who love their students, who love, above all, teaching – they rarely hang around”.

Mr Silver is a popular teacher at the International School in Paris. The kids adore him, the girls fancy him and the boys want to be like him. At the end of the school year he meets a girl, Marie, at the students’ party and doesn’t realise that she is a student at the school.

Gilad is a son of an American diplomat and is used to spending a few months here and there. He is a loner and is impressed by Mr Silver’s class and his way of provoking his students. While waiting for the Metro one day, he and Mr Silver witness someone being pushed onto the tracks and Mr Silver takes Gilad to a café to make some sense of what they have witnessed, something that the headmistress doesn’t approve of.

This is an amazing portrait of teachers and students at an international school. What I really liked about the book is that the story is told from three narrators: Mr Silver, Gilad and Marie. I’m impressed how the author has managed to give the three narrators different styles and I really felt that the things seen through Marie’s eyes is typical for a 17-year old lovestruck girl.

I also loved how much I learnt about other books and teaching literature from reading this book. Read it!

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