Genevieve | 2/20/2014
" This is a sort of antithetical boarding school novel with the institutional feel of Cuckoo's Nest. The fact that I was all over the story and its premise of acute dysfunction is ... vaguely unnerving. On the other hand, there's a nagging and far from enjoyable sense that Benjamin's narrative could take a Lord of the Flies turn, which I suppose it does a bit in the end. That's not a criticism, really. Just an observation. "
Joshua Ledwell | 1/9/2014
" Unpredictable and engaging. Great believable characters. "
Sharon Pelletier | 1/1/2014
" Dark and funny, very deserving of its David Foster Wallace blurb. The Enfield Tennis Academy of Infinite Jest meets Hogwarts if Voldemort had prevailed in the end. Also a shade of Brideshead - that tone of looking back at something that was overwhelming at the time, at once reliving it and re-evaluating it. Bonus: loved the appendix explaining how Soho Press found it in a slush pile four years after it was written. Ah publishing! Ah serendipity! "
Kit | 12/23/2013
" Loved it. Sweet, quirky story of a funky boarding school w. captive kids and bizarre teaching methods. "
C | 12/15/2013
" We meet Benjamin smashing his feet into the cracked windshield of his parents Oldsmobile. And he isn't even put into the violent kids group at The Roaring Orchards School for Troubled Teens. Benjamin has been suicidal in the past, but it seems like any kid can be thrown into this jigsaw puzzle of a mansion, just as long as someone pays tuition. Benjamin is writing his story fifteen years after getting out of the school, when he visits the decaying and molding mansion, left abandoned. Aubrey started Roaring Orchards when he was fired from his other school: for not agreeing with disciplining children for bad behavior by kicking them out of the school. He thought that didn't teach them anything. So Aubrey started his own school in upstate New York, both for kids with mental illnesses and violent prone students. The kids can do anything and not get kicked out for it: violence that adults would be in prison for. The school has questionable, shady practices: one example is "ghosting", treating a student like they do not exist -- no talking to them, no looking at them. It seems to me like that would alienate a student already having a tough time. When Aubrey's health starts to fail, so does the school.
The cover of the book does the best at describing the personality of the book: The humor is quiet yet desperately sad in tough situations, much like the comic book panel pictures that feature haunting and sad images on the cover. One example from the cover is Burn Victim, the silent witness, a teddy so well-loved that it is wrapped in white felt. Really, no other cover could have worked better. This book reminded me of Lauren Groff's 'Arcadia' for many reasons: mainly for involving communities that mean well but ultimately become abusive. Aubrey wants to help these kids, but sometimes too much is too much. Aubrey says to the faculty members: "I hear the way you laugh at these kids, the way you laugh and belittle them, make them the butts of your stories and jokes. ... You get nervous and you laugh; you get angry so you make fun and laugh. ... Yet see how sober the students are. They're so funny but so rarely laugh." (page 279) Many of the faculty are having similar problems as the students they should be role models for. Benjamin sees the way faculty treats students in a different way: "Seeing us as objects of fun let the faculty imagine we were somehow protected, I think, as comic figures are able to survive all kinds of harm." (page 116) I thought this was interesting, because it seemed the same way that Josefson was treating the book and the students within it, and seems like the moral of the story, the point of the book. Dan Josefson says in the after word that he worked for a while in a school. This is Josefson's first novel, and if it is any indication how long it took to get this published, there is a blurb from David Foster Wallace who passed away in 2008. In an interview in the back of the book, it is mentioned that this may be the last book David Foster Wallace gave a blurb for, or even the last book he may have read before his death. Which gets kind of eerie, considering the plot of 'That's Not A Feeling'. It's pretty dang sad and disappointing that none of the bigger publishers would pick this book up, but thankfully there are indie publishers like Soho who do. It kind of makes you wonder how many bookish gems are out there, not getting a chance to be discovered. I really don't want to miss books like this one. I liked this desperately funny, yet hauntingly sad book. "
Joe | 12/7/2013
" Interesting, though not mind blowing. It's an indie novel. "
Christopher | 12/2/2013
" An alright book made better if you have ever worked in the therapeutic boarding school or wilderness therapy industry. You will appreciate a lot of the dialogue and jargon. "
Regina | 9/24/2013
" The book was pretty entertaining although it did stretch on a bit too much. The characters were fun to read about, and the overall concept of the school was really interesting. I struggled to finish it towards the end when I realized that nothing exceptional was going to happen. "
Candace | 9/20/2013
" I did not actually finish this book because I wasn't connecting with it--and that's not a feeling, just a blatant truth. Perhaps I am just less interested in juvenile detention camp stories than I thought I was... "
David | 8/30/2013
" This is simultaneously both a very smart and very human book. The characters are great and the academy itself is wild, though probably not as fantastical as one might hope. I got into it and didn't want to put it down until it was done. "
Katrina V. | 6/6/2013
" I gave this two chapters and just couldn't get into it. I was confused about who was narrating. "
Kate | 4/11/2013
" It was entertaining enough as it went along, but overall it didn't do much for me. Not much character development, not much of a plot. It just seemed like an account of some period of time at this school. Not sure what the main point was. "
Jane Smith | 10/27/2012
" The book is humorous, sure, and also quite interesting, there was good voice, intriguing characters, etc. but there was so much information dumping (much of which was unnecessary), a bad ending, shaky subplots, etc. It's average. "