Good Kings, Bad Kings – Book Review

Now I know I still need to put up reviews for March but this book is fresh in my memory so I thought I would start here.



Title- Good Kings, Bad Kings
Author- Susan Nussbaum
Published- March 2014
Genre- Contemporary
Length- 336 pages
Rating- 2/5

Synopsis- ‘My first week I learned that people refer to ILLC as “illsee”. Emphasis on ‘ill’. The Illinois Learning and Life Skills Center may not sound like the name of a nursing home, but that’s how they work it. Naming these places is all about misdirection. Inside, it smells, sounds, and looks like your standard-issue nursing home. Same old wolf but in a lamb outfit.’

Told in alternating perspectives by a varied cast of characters, Good Kings, Bad Kings is a powerful and inspiring debut that invites us into the lives of a group of teenagers and staff who live at the ILLC. From Yessenia, who dreams of her next boyfriend, to Teddy, a resident who dresses up daily in a full suit and tie, and Mia, who guards a terrifying secret, Nussbaum has crafted a multifaceted portrait of a way of life that challenges our definitions of what it means to be disabled. In a story told with remarkable authenticity, their voices resound with resilience, courage and humour.

Review – I thought the synopsis of this book sounded really interesting so was very keen to read it however, I was sorely disappointed. At several points I considered putting this down and not finishing it which if you have read my 25 bookish facts post you will know I rarely do.

Firstly, there was a major mistake in terms of the description of one of the character’s medical conditions in that if she had what was described, she couldn’t have done any of what she did in the book. So, for me it didn’t start well but that might not annoy or be noticed by non-medics I suppose.

I actually found this book a bit offensive, the repeated use of one word in particular, and I am not the most P.C. person. In the synopsis it is described as “authentic” but I felt like a lot of the characters were unnecessarily portrayed as stupid. Some of the characters are supposed to have intellectual disabilities but not all, and this book makes it seem like every character, including the staff, really aren’t that bright.

This book is told from multiple perspectives which I generally really enjoy but there is very limited character development. The story is told by both staff and patients of the home and one member of management. That is actually a lot of people so I suppose that’s why there wasn’t much time to really learn about the characters in such a short book. It would perhaps have been a better book overall if the number of perspectives was cut down.

Not a lot happens in this book, there are a few small incidents that are actually only really glossed over and there is no major storyline. Some of the incidents could have been really interesting and thought provoking if expanded but that just didn’t happen. Nothing is tied up at the end of the book, it is almost as if the author just decided she was bored of writing at that point so thought she would stop.

So overall I would not recommend this book. It had potential, it is a good idea, but just very underdeveloped.

Has anyone else read this? What did you think?



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