The usually taboo topic of a student-teacher relationship in a local high school is dealt with by Maksik by taking us on a slow tour of the lives of those involved. Thirty-eight year old Will – Mr. Silver or just Silver to his pupils – is a popular teacher, handsome, relaxed and well-read. Marie is a senior in an international secondary school in France; intelligent, unsure of herself but actively pursuing Mr Silver.
Silver's teaching is highly moralistic, and throughout the book he plays the common wise-teacher trope, enlightening his students with rhetoric and realism. This can be a bit overdone, and even when Silver shows his failings the kids still swam back to him, perhaps unrealistically.
The chapters flick between characters, telling the story first from one perspective then the next, sometimes moving forward, sometimes recounting the same story from a different perspective. Maksik gives his characters a fairly equal dose of both air time and sympathy so it's difficult to actively dislike any of them. The characters' apathy sometimes deadens what would otherwise be dramatic scenes, but this serves to blend the book together into a homogenous tale of growing up and moving on.
At its core You Deserve Nothing is a lightly read story about humanity and expectations and disappointment, and nothing working out the way you want it to, but perhaps the way it should. While it doesn't have thousands of people tearing down bookstore doors, there are some valuable scenes which will stay with you after the last page. Pick this one up if you're looking for a different take on love, and an insight into the lives of travel-weary kids just trying to grow up.