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"Riveting. A deeply resonant, brilliantly nuanced meditation on privilege, social ambition, and the folly (and cruelty) of youth." -- Kate Walbert, author of His Favorites
St. James is an exclusive New England boarding school known for grooming generations of leaders. Ben Weeks is a true insider -- his ancestors helped found St. James, his older brother taught him all the slang, and he's just won a national championship in squash.
But after fourteen long years of waiting, Ben arrives at school only to find that the reality of St. James doesn't quite match up with his imaginings. At the same time, his new roommate, Ahmed Al-Khaled, the son of a fabulously wealthy Emirati sheik, can't navigate the unspoken rules of New England blue bloods. Even as Ben and Ahmed struggle to prove themselves in the place they have revered for so long, each of them must face losing it forever.
The Expectations is at once a finely drawn portrait of American privilege and a subtle exploration of class, race, and tradition. Above all, it is a tender, sharp, and evocative debut about the pain and treachery of adolescence, and the difficulty -- wherever one finds oneself -- of truly belonging.
About the Author
Alexander Tilney received an MFA from Warren Wilson College and has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony. His writing has appeared in the Southwest Review, Gelf Magazine, and the Journal of The Office for Creative Research. He lives in New York City with his partner, theater artist Sarah Hughes. This is his first novel.
"Alexander Tilney applies supple, panoramic prose to the deep interior of an exclusive Northeastern prep school, with arresting results: at once anthropological and visceral, The Expectations provides an authoritative glimpse into a rarefied world of privilege -- and announces a dazzling new voice in American fiction."—Jennifer Egan, bestselling author of Manhattan Beach
"A terrific read -- funny, heartbreaking, and completely transporting from start to finish. A provocative and powerful debut."—Kate Walbert, author of His Favorites
"The Expectations is the story of how fraught and chaotic and exhilarating it is on the cusp of adulthood while living among the wealthy, and the cruel. Tender but not sentimental, this novel marks the debut of a genuine talent, one I hope to keep reading for a very long time."—Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling
"The Expectations portrays all the intrigue of adolescence -- sexual longing, competitive aspiration, and betrayal -- while illuminating the most poignant of growing-up realities: It's scary to figure out who you are, and even scarier when you have no idea. Tilney expertly evokes the human yearning to be recognized as Somebody, even when you fear you are nobody."—Katharine Dion, author of The Dependents
"Beautifully rendered, sharply observed, and intensely moving. Writing with uncommon acuity and generosity, Tilney pierces the heart of a boy, exposing it without betraying it. The Expectations is an unsentimental novel about adolescence, written for adults, to be read not so that we might remember our blundering younger selves but that we might forgive them. A gift of a novel."—Susan Rieger, author of The Heirs and The Divorce Papers
"Prep school isn't what it used to be, as Ben Weeks discovers during his first year at the elite St. James School. Debut author Tilney deftly limns the unchanging eponymous expectations: that students will graduate to the Ivy League and real-world leadership; that while at St. James they will uphold such dubious traditions as ferocious competitiveness in sports and brutal hazing of new students. But Tilney also nails the changing social climate of the mid-1990s...The Expectations paints a compassionate portrait of a confused young man groping for maturity...Smart, shrewdly observed, and highly readable."—Kirkus Reviews