With a Bang: The Best Debut Novels of 2011

You Deserve Nothing, Alexander Maksik

The premise, it’s true, is one you’ve heard before: charming, inspirational teacher gets involved with a female student, things go down the drain. But Maksik’s treatment of this time-honored tale is absolutely fresh — his teacher, Will Silver, a modern-day Meursault who has left his wife and moved to Paris to instruct well-bred students at the International School of France, is as complex as you could hope for, and as fun to read. You will find yourself just as riveted as Will’s students when he lectures about Camus, Shakespeare, and Sartre, but even more riveting is Maksik’s tight, steady plotting and satisfying prose, which will keep you up all night, “studying.”