Another new and exciting experience came my way this week thanks to my blog. I was invited to the filming of TV Book Club at Cactus TV studios. I arrived all alone and was greeted by some other bloggers. I was the only YA blogger there (to my knowledge). I felt like I had stepped into an episode of Poirot as all these people from different walks of life were brought together. I was sure there would be a dead body when we went on to the set but alas no, this was real life.
The book this episode was focused on was You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik. I have learned from experience that I enjoy book events much more if I’ve read the book so I did just that. It’s an adult novel for sure but it focuses on the life of teenagers at an international school in Paris. I found the book incredibly easy to get into and that it was just my cup of tea which tells me that the social media agency that invited me to the filming really knew their stuff.
I read this book as fiction. I absolutely loved it. When I arrived at the studio one of the other viewers told me it was based on the author’s personal experiences. She said she found it sinister and disturbing. But I do not believe the book should be judged in this way. I believe it should be judged on the quality of the writing and the construction of the story which were, in my opinion, excellent.
The panel on the show Caroline Quentin, Rory Mcgrath, Laila Rouass were joined by special guest Alex James. I think it is fair to say none of them enjoyed the book as much as me. Rory felt, like I did, that it was very accessible and not at all pretentious. Alex found it sinister and didn’t really want to read on. Laila wanted a bit more from the character of Gilad. (I tell you more about him later). I’m not entirely sure it was Caroline’s type of thing. She was much keener on Alex’s new book about cheese.
I liked this book more than anyone else at the filming and that’s fine. I found that it really spoke to me. I understood the melancholy feeling of the end of term. You watch your students go and you are left behind. Then the new intake comes and so does the hope and desire to be the best teacher you can be that year. The character of Will, the teacher at the heart of it all who has an illicit affair with a pupil at the school, made literature and philosophy come to life so that you wanted to be transformed by reading it. You wanted to be in the class learning from him. I understood why his students were hooked on his every word.
The story is told also from the perspectives of Marie - the girl who has a relationship with him. I want to say he seduces her but the way they both tell the story, it isn’t quite like that. Marie is lost amid a school of fakes. She is playing a role and is suffocating because of it. The professional in me says she is a victim, abused by the control Will has over the student body. The relationship is a little more complicated than that, I think. But Marie feels that she’d let him do anything to her which is certainly not healthy.
Then there is Gilad who was my favourite character and the reason that I really got this story. He too is in love with Will. He wants to please him and be noticed by him and be declared as “special”. Gilad hangs off Will’s every word. He is the real hero in this story but if you want to know why you’ll have to read it.
There are many themes at play in You Deserve Nothing but for me there are two undeniable truths. The first is that life is defined by our choices. We make them and we are responsible for them. The second is that people disappoint us. We build expectations around people and glorify them. Inevitably they are human and let us down. And now I tell you that I loved this book but the ending was a disappointment. I believe it was meant to be that way. We want Will to be more than he is. But the truth is that he’s shallow and a coward. If we realise our idols are flawed maybe we’re inspired to try harder to be better people. I hope that’s the heart of this book.
You can find out about the other books on TV Book Club's Best Reads Collection 2012 at their WEBSITE.