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Starter for Ten

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Starter for Ten PDF, ePub eBook The year is 1985. Brian Jackson, a working-class kid on full scholarship, has started his first term at university. He has a dark secret—a long-held, burning ambition to appear on the wildly popular British TV quiz show University Challenge—and now, finally, it seems the dream is about to become reality. He's made the school team, and they've completed the qualifying round The year is 1985. Brian Jackson, a working-class kid on full scholarship, has started his first term at university. He has a dark secret—a long-held, burning ambition to appear on the wildly popular British TV quiz show University Challenge—and now, finally, it seems the dream is about to become reality. He's made the school team, and they've completed the qualifying rounds and are limbering up for their first televised match. (And, what's more, he's fallen head over heels for one of his teammates, the beautiful, brainy, and intimidatingly posh Alice Harbinson.) Life seems perfect and triumph inevitable—but as his world opens up, Brian learns that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

30 review for Starter for Ten

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kyu

    This was a First-Reads win, so I desperately wanted to like this book. It's a coming-of-age story about an awkward, nerdy main character. In fact, this character is like many a person I've known during my own coming-of-age period in my life. Unfortunately, unlike the many similar people I've known and liked and befriended, Brian Jackson lacks any redeeming quality that makes me, the reader, want to root for him. The first forty pages of the book had me slightly interested in learning what would This was a First-Reads win, so I desperately wanted to like this book. It's a coming-of-age story about an awkward, nerdy main character. In fact, this character is like many a person I've known during my own coming-of-age period in my life. Unfortunately, unlike the many similar people I've known and liked and befriended, Brian Jackson lacks any redeeming quality that makes me, the reader, want to root for him. The first forty pages of the book had me slightly interested in learning what would happen to Brian, the earnest kid with friends back home and a mother living alone, when he goes off to school by himself. I expected a story of growth, of adventure, of mishaps and character clashes. Instead, what I got was a completely off-putting story about a guy who imagines he falls head over heels in love with a girl (whose only attractive quality is that she is luminously beautiful). In the course of pursuing this girl, Brian throws everything away - his friends, his family, his own integrity - and the reader never learns who the real Brian is, or what he could amount to. In fact, I felt that I hated the main character more and more with each chapter. Normally, I'd put the book down after reaching mid-way point but... I felt I owed it to the Goodreads community to at least read it once through. I was relieved when the book was over. It was, to say the least, a disappointing experience. I'm truly sorry I didn't enjoy the book more and am not able to give a more positive review, but I figure the point of First-Reads is to provide a body of honest, reliable feedback. So... there it is.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    "I'm aware that the transition into adulthood is a difficult and sometimes painful one. I'm familiar with the conventions of the rites of passage, I know what the literary term bildungsroman means, I realise that it's inevitable that I'll look back at things that happened in my youth and give a wry, knowing smile. But surely there's no reason why I should be embarrassed and ashamed about things that happened thirty seconds ago? No reason why life should just be this endless rolling panorama of b "I'm aware that the transition into adulthood is a difficult and sometimes painful one. I'm familiar with the conventions of the rites of passage, I know what the literary term bildungsroman means, I realise that it's inevitable that I'll look back at things that happened in my youth and give a wry, knowing smile. But surely there's no reason why I should be embarrassed and ashamed about things that happened thirty seconds ago? No reason why life should just be this endless rolling panorama of bodged friendships, fumbled opportunities, fatuous conversations, wasted days, idiotic remarks and ill-judged unfunny jokes that just lie on the floor in front of me, flipping about like dying fish?" Starter For Ten is the first novel by British author, David Nicholls. Almost-nineteen-year-old Brian Jackson is starting University. He sees "reading English" as the opportunity to become independent of his widowed mother, meet girls, make new friends, and, who knows, maybe appear on University Challenge (something his Dad would have been thrilled about). He hopes his recently-purchased clothing, his professed hobbies and his conversation will make him seem cool, but knows he is at a disadvantage: "It's not that I'm anti-fashion, it's just that all of the major youth movements I've lived through so far, none have really fitted. At the end of the day, the harsh reality is that if you're a fan of Kate Bush, Charles Dickens, Scrabble, David Attenborough and University "Challenge, then there's not much out there for you in terms of a youth movement." and "When I say I'm interested in badminton what I really mean is that if someone held a gun to my head and forced me, on pain of death, to play one sport, and they were refusing to accept Scrabble as a sport, then that sport would be badminton." His room in his share house will be familiar to many who experienced University during this era: "The room has the appeal and ambience of a murder scene; a single mattress on a metal frame, a matching plywood wardrobe and desk, and two small wood-effect Formica shelves. The carpets are mud-brown and seem to have been woven from compacted pubic hair. A dirty window above the desk looks out onto the dustbins below, whilst a framed sign warns that using Blu-Tack on the walls is punishable by death". Soon after he meets the beautiful Alice Harbinson, also trying out for the University Challenge team, everything he says and does is designed to impress her. He eventually manages to ask her out on a date: "...I check my wallet for the condom that I always carry with me in case of a miracle. This particular condom ....has been in my wallet for so long now that it's stuck to the lining, and the foil wrapper has started to tarnish round the outline of the condom., like some grotesque brass rubbing. Still, I like to carry it with me, in the same way some people carry a St Christopher's medal, despite the fact that I have about as much chance of using the thing tonight as I have of carrying the infant Jesus across a river" Even in his first novel, Nicholls demonstrates his expertise in capturing the era (fashion, popular music, TV programs, ) and in portraying the awkward, hopeful but hopelessly inept protagonist. Readers will wince at Brian's faux pas, cringe at his attempts to impress the girl and laugh out loud at his misfortunes and his self-deprecation, all the while nodding in agreement with his (perhaps naive) reasoning or groaning at his less intelligent decisions. Each chapter is prefaced with a University Challenge question that is loosely related to that chapter. Nicholls evokes the mood with skill: "The four days in between Boxing Day and New Year's Eve are surely the longest and nastiest in the year- a sort of bloated, bastard Sunday. August Bank Holiday's the worst, though. I fully expect to die at about two-thirty in the afternoon on an August Bank Holiday. Terminal ennui". His descriptive prose is wonderfully original: Giggling, she prods me in the chest with the whisky bottle, and I realise she's very drunk; not gloomy drunk or surly drunk, but frisky drunk, playful drunk, which is a good sign, I suppose, but still a little strange and unsettling, like seeing Stalin on a skateboard". He can be succinct and wise: "'Independence' is the luxury of all those people who are too confident, and busy, and popular, and attractive to be just plain old 'lonely'". Laugh-out-loud funny, this entertaining novel is a brilliant debut.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rosanna Threakall

    This is David Nicholl's first novel and it really shows. Although it was enjoyable, funny, heart wrenching and relatable it just wasn't what I was expecting. It felt clumsy and confused and I didn't like the way women were portrayed. I guess I just can't get over the fact that Understudy by him is one of my all time fav books I think about it everyday and I just want another one of his books to do that to me. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. I found the synopsis and reviews misleading. Havi This is David Nicholl's first novel and it really shows. Although it was enjoyable, funny, heart wrenching and relatable it just wasn't what I was expecting. It felt clumsy and confused and I didn't like the way women were portrayed. I guess I just can't get over the fact that Understudy by him is one of my all time fav books I think about it everyday and I just want another one of his books to do that to me. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. I found the synopsis and reviews misleading. Having said that, I did laugh a LOT like out loud and it's hard for a book to make me do that. I think someone interested in British culture would love this as it is VERY British, comically so. Not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination, just very obviously a first book. I still love you, David.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bryony

    "'Well...' says Alice '...we had some friends round, like we always do on Boxing Day, and we were playing charades, and it was my turn, and I was trying to do 'Last Year At Marienbad' for Mummy, and she was getting so frantic and over-excited, and shouting so hard, that her cap popped out and landed right in our next-door neighbour's glass of wine!' And everyone's laughing, even Mr Harbinson, and the atmosphere is so funny and adult and amusing and irreverent that I say, 'You mean you weren't wea "'Well...' says Alice '...we had some friends round, like we always do on Boxing Day, and we were playing charades, and it was my turn, and I was trying to do 'Last Year At Marienbad' for Mummy, and she was getting so frantic and over-excited, and shouting so hard, that her cap popped out and landed right in our next-door neighbour's glass of wine!' And everyone's laughing, even Mr Harbinson, and the atmosphere is so funny and adult and amusing and irreverent that I say, 'You mean you weren't wearing any underwear?!?' Everyone is silent. 'I'm sorry?' asks Rose. 'Your cap. When it popped out. How did it get past your... underpants?' Mr Harbinson puts down his knife and fork, swallows his mouthful, turns to me and says, very slowly, 'Actually, Brian, I think Alice was referring to her mother's dental cap.' Shortly afterwards, we all go up to bed." I read 'Starter for 10' after watching the film adaptation. It is hilarious. It literally made me rock backwards and forwards, shrieking with laughter. It's incredibly funny, comforting and realistic enough to be credible. I have read other books by Nicholls since, but I did not enjoy any as much as 'Starter for 10.' Sure, Brian is irritating and soppy, but he's supposed to be, and we'd complain if he was a flawless character. And yes, it's blindingly obvious how things will end with Alice/Rebecca, but we have so much fun getting there that it doesn't seem to matter.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

    I think I'd have had a lot more sympathy for the main character if I had read this a decade ago, when I was also an insufferable asshole nineteen year old.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Greg Stragnell

    This is a very funny book about an English lad during his first year at University. He has all the usual first year mishaps and, partly as a result of "falling in love" with a beautiful undergraduate, joins the team for University Challenge, a British quiz programme based on College Bowl. He pursues his relationship with "the beautiful girl" while at the same time crossing swords with a radical but much more rounded girl. The book was made into a film starring James McAvoy which is also very amu This is a very funny book about an English lad during his first year at University. He has all the usual first year mishaps and, partly as a result of "falling in love" with a beautiful undergraduate, joins the team for University Challenge, a British quiz programme based on College Bowl. He pursues his relationship with "the beautiful girl" while at the same time crossing swords with a radical but much more rounded girl. The book was made into a film starring James McAvoy which is also very amusing. Don't read this book while drinking milk or it will be coming out of your nose.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Kitzmiller

    Brian Jackson is a grant student entering his first year at university. Coming from blue collar family and friends, he’s always been the oddball at home, and is hoping that at university he will find his niche. As a fan of the television show University Challenge, he is excited to make the team, even if it is only as first alternate – mostly because he gets to see the posh and beautiful Alice at team meetings. As his first year of college progresses, though, Brian learns the valuable lesson that Brian Jackson is a grant student entering his first year at university. Coming from blue collar family and friends, he’s always been the oddball at home, and is hoping that at university he will find his niche. As a fan of the television show University Challenge, he is excited to make the team, even if it is only as first alternate – mostly because he gets to see the posh and beautiful Alice at team meetings. As his first year of college progresses, though, Brian learns the valuable lesson that knowledge does not equal wisdom – and that there is more to being smart than knowing all the answers. Have you ever had this kind of experience: you’re reading a book, and you read a sentence-paragraph-half-a-page-chapter that is so tautly written and absolutely hysterical that you must read it aloud to someone immediately – only there isn’t anyone around?!? I had this experience while reading Starter for Ten over and over (and over and over) again. One of the cover blurbs says that this book has the “elusive Hornby-factor” and I would second that thought – this book has the same way of looking at the world slant-ways and finding the humor and stark-raving madness in the mere fact of being human – and yet Nicholls manages to find his own voice and not come across as a Hornby wannabe. In Brian, Nicholls has captured the ultimate eighteen-year-old – he is convinced that he is now an adult, and he is READY FOR LIFE. And yet, any of us who have reached the age of 25 – or even 20 (or in my case almost 20 years older than that) – remember how little we knew about ourselves and the world at age 18. Brian is a truly lovable character – you root for him and root for him and then groan when he completely sabotages any chances of being seen as a cool – or even normal – person. He simply has the worst possible luck, in little things like picking out the restaurant for a first date or simply getting a haircut – so you can imagine how his luck runs when it comes to the big things, like finding true love, or getting an education. I loved Nicholls’ novel One Day, but I’m glad that I read one review that stated how different it was from Starter for Ten. Because I knew that going in, I wasn’t expecting this to be the same kind of book. It isn’t. It has more humor and, in spite of Brian’s rotten luck, more hope. This doesn’t make it better or worse, as I gave both books five stars, just different. So, if you loved One Day, read this and know that it is a different book. If you didn’t like One Day, read this and know that it is a different book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cecily

    This is set at Bristol University in one of the years I was studying there (which is why I read it) and is presumably somewhat autobiographical as the author was there at that time. However, bar the odd mention of certain music, it wasn't particularly comparable to my experience or people I knew. It is the story of Brian's first couple of terms at university, during which he fulfils an ambition to be on the University Challenge (TV quiz) team. However, the quiz is just a literary hook to portray This is set at Bristol University in one of the years I was studying there (which is why I read it) and is presumably somewhat autobiographical as the author was there at that time. However, bar the odd mention of certain music, it wasn't particularly comparable to my experience or people I knew. It is the story of Brian's first couple of terms at university, during which he fulfils an ambition to be on the University Challenge (TV quiz) team. However, the quiz is just a literary hook to portray the struggle of an awkward, naive working class boy, still grieving for the father who died 6 years earlier, to fit in with a very different crowd. Other than being a socialist, he wants to be all things to all men - and women - but invariably gets it wrong. His inner monologue is documented too (as in Peep Show and The Inbetweeners on TV), which gives plenty of scope for humour. It's all quite amusing, but it's a quick and shallow read. Now off to try Brett Easton Ellis's take on US college life in a similar period. That should be a contrast!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Hope Fletcher

    "1985. First-year student and Kate Bush fan Brian falls or beautiful University Challenge queen Alice Harbinson in a brilliant comedy of love, class, growing up and the all-important difference between knowledge and wisdom." "Another David Nicholls book?!" I hear you scream! Yes indeed and they just get better and better! ‘Starter For Ten’ is a brilliant read however the main character is a bit of an oddball! Brian Jackson is a lanky and rather geeky boy that is unbelievably socially inept. ‘Sta "1985. First-year student and Kate Bush fan Brian falls or beautiful University Challenge queen Alice Harbinson in a brilliant comedy of love, class, growing up and the all-important difference between knowledge and wisdom." "Another David Nicholls book?!" I hear you scream! Yes indeed and they just get better and better! ‘Starter For Ten’ is a brilliant read however the main character is a bit of an oddball! Brian Jackson is a lanky and rather geeky boy that is unbelievably socially inept. ‘Starter For Ten’ is filled with cringe-worthy lines and moments that I even flinched at on several occasions! However, because the story is told by this adorable moron, it’s easier to sympathize with him and we see his reasoning behind the ridiculous things he says. The story takes us through his obsession with Kate Bush, the singer and Alice Harbinson, his class mate…both love affairs as unrealistic as each other! The novel really defines the difference between what you learn in class and the natural common sense that managed to skip a generation in the Jackson family. A brilliant read and a real good laugh!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Georgina

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Nicholls' creation Brian is awkward, arrogant, and still in the process of growing up. As a reader, you watch his social faux pas through your fingers. At times you simply want to give him a shake. Despite the fact that he believes he has learnt and matures by the end of the novel Nicholls does not give in and give us the Hollywood transformation. You'll still want to shakes some sense into when you hear his final words.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    When we were young -a long long time ago- a friend of mine and me joked about the continuous crises: the first-year-at-uni crisis, the mid-degree crisis and of course, the last-degree-year crisis. Hey, our life was so full! This is a first-year-at-uni crisis novel, dissected by his protagonist and narrator, Brian. He presents himself as a working-class lad setting off on his big university journey, with all its appealing prospects: leaving home to live on your own -that is to say, in your shared When we were young -a long long time ago- a friend of mine and me joked about the continuous crises: the first-year-at-uni crisis, the mid-degree crisis and of course, the last-degree-year crisis. Hey, our life was so full! This is a first-year-at-uni crisis novel, dissected by his protagonist and narrator, Brian. He presents himself as a working-class lad setting off on his big university journey, with all its appealing prospects: leaving home to live on your own -that is to say, in your shared accommodation-, meeting lots of attractive interesting girls, learning all sorts of important things and even becoming part of the University Challenge team! Brian is a bit different in that he is the only one in his group of friends to have earned a grant to go to uni: the other lads are stuck in dreary underpaid jobs in the middle of a recession, as the book is set in the 1980´s. Of course, I couldn´t help comparing the situation of these funded students with today´s recession and the exhorbitant price of university fees. Being paid to study? It seems like the stuff of fairy tales now! Predictably, as Brian tries to meet as many people as possible and to have as many experiences as possible, he neglects his mum and his friends: he doesn´t go back for weekends, doesn´t phone much and when his best friend comes to visit, he is unkind. So this is not entirely a campus-novel: it is also a novel about what is outside the campus, about the friends we have left behind and the families who are carrying on with their lives. I gather that universities are the place where middle class and lower class undergraduates meet upper class undergraduates, the kind of students who went to public schools and have tons of cash, property and privileges. This was a topic in "One Day" too. It seems to happen for the first time, too. As I am not British, I was surprised by such a deep class division. Did they never go to the same pubs and clubs wherever they all came from? Here Brian falls for blonde posh girl Alice, and they strike up a sort of friendship that degenerates into farce at various points, notably when Brian spends a desultory Christmas holiday at Alice´s family´s country home. Well, there is a blond dream girl in every guy´s past, so we will not hold down any hard feelings against Brian. Who can blame him for trying? Not me, certainly. I look forward to my kids enjoying university life, even if I haven´t got a clue how on earth we are going to be able to afford this. Well, my son has only just started Reception, so it may be a bit early to worry about it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Judy Mann

    This book made me glad that there are such things as libraries.Had I wasted a nickle buying this book I would've been furious. It's not very good. The first thing I want to say is that once you're onto David Nicholl's gimmicks - the whole book falls apart. Here it is- his gimmick: He seems to lead you to this great climax in the plot and then whammo- he lets you drop-flat on your face. All his plots have bad endings. That's how he engages you- with bad endings. Yes One Day was fabulous- but that wa This book made me glad that there are such things as libraries.Had I wasted a nickle buying this book I would've been furious. It's not very good. The first thing I want to say is that once you're onto David Nicholl's gimmicks - the whole book falls apart. Here it is- his gimmick: He seems to lead you to this great climax in the plot and then whammo- he lets you drop-flat on your face. All his plots have bad endings. That's how he engages you- with bad endings. Yes One Day was fabulous- but that was because I wasn't onto this aforementioned gimmick yet.That book as well had a really bad ending- but like I said because I read it first- it was still believable. Now this one, Starter for 10- just plain Blah. The lead character is hideously unlikable- which goes to show you that you can't write a book about a nerd without boring the pants off your readers- which he did. This guy, Brian Jackson, was such a profoundly pretentious asshole- that he made me sick.Really sick. The only characters I liked were the Marxist woman-she was good clean fun-and Brian's 2nd to best buddy-Tone - who is such an unabashed red neck that I found him quite thrilling. As to the rest-like I said -Thank God for libraries. This book is a waste of time and money. Don't read it. Don't buy it. I never read Debut novels- which this one was for David Nicholls. I figure let someone else go through his growing pains. And most importantly never read a book where the author drops so many names in his book flap bio that you want to puke before you even start the book. Name dropping is very irritating as was this book. There you have it. Lousy book.JM

  13. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    A quick easy read, coming of age story. I felt the anxieties of teenagers, leaving to go to university was well portrayed and the issues of social class

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gail

    Post-One Day, I wanted to have at some more of David Nicholls' work. Starter for 10 is his first novel, and well....I finished it underwhelmed. A few reasons why this one tripped me up when One Day (for me anyway) was so lovely: 1) The protagonist, Brian Jackson: A college freshman, Brian has fancy notions of what it means to head off to university. But he's nerdy and his face is pock-marked with acne and he's awkward. So, SO awkward. Every scene becomes slightly painful to read because it's Brian Post-One Day, I wanted to have at some more of David Nicholls' work. Starter for 10 is his first novel, and well....I finished it underwhelmed. A few reasons why this one tripped me up when One Day (for me anyway) was so lovely: 1) The protagonist, Brian Jackson: A college freshman, Brian has fancy notions of what it means to head off to university. But he's nerdy and his face is pock-marked with acne and he's awkward. So, SO awkward. Every scene becomes slightly painful to read because it's Brian tripping over his words to be funny. Brian trying to sound smarter than he is. Brian thinking a girl—like the gorgeous Alice Harbinson—is in to him when, well, really she's not. 2) The storyline: I'm far enough removed from the college scene now that reading about the days of "getting pissed" every night and being hung over every morning make me feel old. The book's plot builds up to Brian and his team's participation in the University Challenge (think Jeopardy for the college set) and while these bits of the book are pretty solid ... it's the everyday life of the 19-year-old that gets old. Oh, and a bit of a pet peeve — Nicholls begins and ends his story here using the same lines (bit of a literary cop-out, eh?) 3) The British divide: We all speak English. How bad could it be? Turns out, there are enough differences in our countries' vernaculars that I found myself tripping over certain words or puzzling over phrases because of it. Made it more of a challenge to really get in to this one. Compelled to watch the film version of this after reading (because, after all, it has James McAvoy and Rebecca Hall) but even that didn't sell me. Just an OK read (and film) for me....

  15. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Men don't read. Or that's something of a stereotype assigned by publishers that makes finding good books somewhat difficult at times. One can always pick up airport reads about lawyers (Grisham) spies (Clancy) or scary medical stuff (Crichton) and then of course there is fare for the intellectual (Franzen). What about the non-alpha male middle class white guy, somewhat in touch with his sensitive side who wants to pick up something that doesn't assume he is without brains, but doesn't necessaril Men don't read. Or that's something of a stereotype assigned by publishers that makes finding good books somewhat difficult at times. One can always pick up airport reads about lawyers (Grisham) spies (Clancy) or scary medical stuff (Crichton) and then of course there is fare for the intellectual (Franzen). What about the non-alpha male middle class white guy, somewhat in touch with his sensitive side who wants to pick up something that doesn't assume he is without brains, but doesn't necessarily push him to work out the meaning of every line? That's tougher. Okay, that's a tough complaint to make given that the demographic I just described is catered to by pretty much the entire non-literary world. Still...for that demographic and at this point I should be honest and say, for me, it can sometimes be a challenge to find something that you can bring to the beach without giving the impression that you're reading chick lit (being in touch with one's sensitive side does not mean that one is willing to whip out the Jodi Picoult at the beach...sorry) but without resorting to reading Dickens (which I've done at the beach and it just doesn't have that escapist quality you want at the beach). So, I gave David Nicholls a second chance despite his kicking me in the groin with the first book of his that I chose. After all, he keptly fairly well entertained for three hundred pages, most of which I turned through fairly quickly. Same here. This book doesn't insult my intelligence and assumes that you might know something about Dickens and Shakespeare. At the same time it doesn't require that you do. It kept me entertained through several late night rocking the baby sessions and through one happily not so long wait for a CAT scan (no worries...I'm fine) and caused me to laugh more than once. There are things I could get picky about, but getting picky goes against the grain for the type of book I was looking for here.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Riya

    4.5 stars This book was hilarious. I don't tend to pick up funny books for some reason but I am so glad I picked this one up. Honestly, it was one of the funniest books I have ever read. Brian was such a great character. He was the one you loved to hate and his knack of embarrassing himself constantly left me in hysterics. There were times when I was actually groaning audibly because of his awkwardness. By the end of the book, I felt so close to him and I just wanted more. I found myself picking 4.5 stars This book was hilarious. I don't tend to pick up funny books for some reason but I am so glad I picked this one up. Honestly, it was one of the funniest books I have ever read. Brian was such a great character. He was the one you loved to hate and his knack of embarrassing himself constantly left me in hysterics. There were times when I was actually groaning audibly because of his awkwardness. By the end of the book, I felt so close to him and I just wanted more. I found myself picking up Starter for Ten at every spare moment I got because I was so immersed in the story and characters. Rebecca was fantastic; she reminded me very much of Mary-Elizabeth from Perks. Yes, the ending was predictable with regards to Alice and Rebecca but so many books are and I didn't feel like it took away from the plot that much. The whole idea about University Challenge was great and the questions at the start of each chapter were so interesting. I loved that David Nicholls mentioned something to do with his question in each chapter, too and it quickly became a game of 'spot the reference'. Starter for Ten was an incredible book and I'm really looking forward to reading more of David Nicholls' books.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kayla Perry

    I had high hopes for this book after reading One Day, but they turned out to be in vain. Starter for Ten has a cast of characters that I found generally repugnant, especially the main character. He's so obsessed with a girl who plainly doesn't like him and who uses him repeatedly, yet he never seems to learn from these lessons, so the reader is forced to roll their eyes as surprise!-she screws him over again. The story focuses more on his failed courtship of her than it does on his self-professe I had high hopes for this book after reading One Day, but they turned out to be in vain. Starter for Ten has a cast of characters that I found generally repugnant, especially the main character. He's so obsessed with a girl who plainly doesn't like him and who uses him repeatedly, yet he never seems to learn from these lessons, so the reader is forced to roll their eyes as surprise!-she screws him over again. The story focuses more on his failed courtship of her than it does on his self-professed dream, and just when I thought I couldn't be more disgusted I read the ending and realized there was truly no hope (or redemption) for Brian after all.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    I like game shows, so I was interested in the quiz show aspect of this book. I found the book painful to read at times, as the main character was so awkward and inept. Yet, truth be told, I did a lot of stupid things when I was his age. Maybe I was a little better at covering my tracks.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    When I approach the table, Alice stands up, and amazingly puts her arm round me and hugs me really tightly, her cheek pressed tight against mine. I don't know what to do, so I put my arms around her too, leaning forward slightly to allow for the volume of her puffball skirt, one hand on the grey satin, and one on her back, her beautiful back, just where the flesh swells out over the top of the satin, and she whispers in my ear-'you are such a lovely man'- and I think I'm going to cry again, not When I approach the table, Alice stands up, and amazingly puts her arm round me and hugs me really tightly, her cheek pressed tight against mine. I don't know what to do, so I put my arms around her too, leaning forward slightly to allow for the volume of her puffball skirt, one hand on the grey satin, and one on her back, her beautiful back, just where the flesh swells out over the top of the satin, and she whispers in my ear-'you are such a lovely man'- and I think I'm going to cry again, not because I am such a lovely man, but because I'm such a disgusting, fucking stupid, fucking twat, so I squeeze my eyes shut tight and we stay like that for a little while. Starter For Ten was David Nicholls debut novel. It is a kind-of coming of age story about a Brian Jackson, a boy who is starting University. He wants to be part of the team to go on University Challenge, a British TV quiz show. At first he doesn't make the team but is picked as an alternate and something happens that he takes over for someone. Mr Harbinson and his penis look unconvinced, and I realize that he's not actually covering his penis with his hand, but holding it, and for a moment I have an irrational fear that he's going to hit me with it. The main plotline is Brian's infatuation with a girl named Alice, who is also on the University Challenge team. He is hopelessly awkward and it's actually mortifying to read at times because you feel so embarrassed for him. Brian is very smart but he is completely daft when it comes to life and girls. Alice is a popular, beautiful girl who becomes friends with Brian. She essentially is a destructive force in Brian's life but he thinks she's amazing. She constantly leads him on, even if she doesn't mean to. The sad fact is that I love Dickens and Donne and Keats and Eliot and Forster and Conrad and Fitzgerald and Kafka and Wilde and Orwell and Waugh and Marvell and Greene and Sterne and Shakespeare and Webster and Swift and Yeats and Joyce and Hardy, really, really love them. It’s just that they don’t love me back. I didn't love Starter For Ten the way I loved One Day, but I still really enjoyed it for what it was. Sometimes it's nice to read about realistic characters who have flaws, characters that aren't perfect. It makes the characters seem more real. It was the reason why I loved One Day and the reason why I enjoyed this. Both books were smart, realistic and had a certain warmth to them. And this one was quite funny, as well. In a cringe-worthy-David-Brent kind of way. If you don't know who David Brent is, I feel bad for you. This is my second David Nicholls book and I have to say, I'm a fan. Not everyone likes his writing but I love it. I wasn't expecting to but he has surprised me. Very British and witty. I adore it. I recommend this book to anyone who read One Day and liked it. Or to anyone who wants to read a book about the pains and humiliations of being a teenager. When Alice talks about 'independence' she means something completely different. 'Independence' is the luxury of all those people who are too confident, and busy, and popular, and attractive to be just plain old 'lonely'

  20. 4 out of 5

    J.A. Kahn

    I listened to the audio of this book read by David Tennant. It is absolutely sidesplittingly hilarious. (You do need to be familiar with the UK’s University Challenge quiz show to get the most enjoyment out of it). Throughout you get the ominous feeling things can only end badly for Brian. But do they....

  21. 4 out of 5

    becca

    I don't know if I love or hate that ending. So, at first, I really really really hated Brian and, to an extent, I still do. However, at a point about half way through the book my hatred gave way to some sort of mild eye-rolling affection. I just came to accept that he's a bit of a prat and got on with the book. It was a good book. Not brilliant, but not bad either. I liked the fact that the plot followed the choices of the protagonist. It wasn't a plot-driven book, but it WAS a character-driven b I don't know if I love or hate that ending. So, at first, I really really really hated Brian and, to an extent, I still do. However, at a point about half way through the book my hatred gave way to some sort of mild eye-rolling affection. I just came to accept that he's a bit of a prat and got on with the book. It was a good book. Not brilliant, but not bad either. I liked the fact that the plot followed the choices of the protagonist. It wasn't a plot-driven book, but it WAS a character-driven book, which I think is really good. I also liked the fact that this book could make me want to cry with shame and embarrassment but also laugh so hard. Like, there were moments where I wanted the floor to open up on Brian and swallow him whole. But then there were moments where I just wanted him to carry on doing what Brian does because he makes me laugh. I really really disliked Alice. She just seemed like such a...hypocrite. Kind of. She just seemed so shallow and rude and mean...but maybe that was just my interpretation of her. Anyway, a worthy 3 stars. It's a good, light read. But nothing I would really shout from the rooftops about.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Emmet

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to almost the finish. The style is wry and self-aware with just enough pretentiousness to let the reader into the world of the university and Brian Jackson. The writing style was comedic and had me laughing on buses all over the city. The major downfalls of the novel are the ending, which seemed a bit rushed, and some parts of the narrative became trite, leaving me a bit jaded. Perhaps I saw rather too much of myself in Brian Jackson: a pretentious twit w I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to almost the finish. The style is wry and self-aware with just enough pretentiousness to let the reader into the world of the university and Brian Jackson. The writing style was comedic and had me laughing on buses all over the city. The major downfalls of the novel are the ending, which seemed a bit rushed, and some parts of the narrative became trite, leaving me a bit jaded. Perhaps I saw rather too much of myself in Brian Jackson: a pretentious twit who people tolerate just for the nonsense he might say at any given moment. Yet again I'm stuck between giving a 3 or 4 star rating to a book thoroughly deserving a 3.5. I've opted for a 4 star on the basis that although the book isn't life-changing it did give me a well-needed giggle. I am also aware that this brings my 4 star rating into question as almost everything gets 4 stars these days.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    I definitely believe in the necessity of reading diverse literature. If we're not exposed to stories of those different from us, our horizons remain dangerously limited. Different races, religions, sexual orientations, genders – bring it on. I'm game for all of it. But if I'm going to be honest, my wheelhouse, my comfort food, my warm blanket and cup of cocoa in front of a crackling fire on a cold winter night, is always going to be books about awkward, lovelorn, pop-cultured obsessed, too-clever I definitely believe in the necessity of reading diverse literature. If we're not exposed to stories of those different from us, our horizons remain dangerously limited. Different races, religions, sexual orientations, genders – bring it on. I'm game for all of it. But if I'm going to be honest, my wheelhouse, my comfort food, my warm blanket and cup of cocoa in front of a crackling fire on a cold winter night, is always going to be books about awkward, lovelorn, pop-cultured obsessed, too-clever-for-their-own-good-but-not-nearly-as-clever-as-they-think-they-are men between 20 and 50. If these books are set in the late 80s and/or Great Britain, so much the better. We read to discover new things. But we also read to connect to characters who are like us. And the main character of Brian Jackson in David Nicholls' Starter for Ten is so much like me that it kind of stings. But the book ticks so many of the right boxes I couldn't avoid it if I wanted to. Jackson is a first-year student at an unnamed college. Smart but socially useless, he sets his sights on two things: getting a spot on the school's University Challenge quiz team and dating the savvy and beautiful Alice. And that's really all there is to the plot. But as Roger Ebert reminds us, with any good book or movie it's less what it's about than how it is about it. So even though Nicholls puts Brian through some fairly typical romcom paces, the book is never less than thoroughly entertaining. To start, Brian really is a hopeless character. He's self-aware but seemingly oblivious as to what to do with that information. And in Brian's halting, over-ambitious courting of Alice, Nicholls nails exactly the power beautiful young women have over socially anxious young men. Brian knows Alice, also on the quiz team, is out of his league. She's not just smart and physically stunning, she's confident, popular, and sexually voracious. With a legion of more secure, better-looking men figuratively queuing up for her attention, what hope does Brian have? The answer of course (having been a Brian myself, once upon a time), is none, but why should that stop me from getting my heart broken? To Nicholls' credit, Alice is depicted sympathetically and realistically and not as the heartless shrew or vacuous manicpixiedreamgirl she could have been. Like Brian, she knows who she is but can't quite manage to use that knowledge productively. They're clearly not right for each other, but Nicholls does such a deft job in his characterization that we find ourselves half-rooting for them anyway. And, crucially, Nicholls doesn't let Brian off the hook for anything. He's cruel to his widowed mother in the way self-obsessed young men can be. He's patronizing to his childhood friend Spence, a rudderless guy who doesn't need Brian's constant pep talks and condescending advice. And he fails to notice Rebecca, the student who might actually be a better match for him than Alice, treating her as a consolation prize whenever Alice decides she has better things to do than spend time with Brian. He's not callous but he's certainly solipsistic, and Nicholls doesn't depict any of this as cutesy or endearing. Brian is his own worst enemy, and again, Nicholls has drawn him so finely the book manages to be hysterically funny while we're silently raging at Brian to get out of his own way. I related to Brian far too much. This book was, in many ways, like reading the Sliding Doors version of my own life. Starter for Ten didn't show me anything new, but it certainly made me laugh and cringe at things I know all too well.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Petra

    Almost died from second hand embarrassment

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amrita Sarkar

    Starter for Ten started out to be the prose equivalent of a British John Hughes film. The year is perfect; The Breakfast Club year of 1985. Something like this book had been badly needed and I was so grateful to Mr. Nicholls for having written a deliciously long book. Like his protagonist( and himself), I read English in college. Accordingly, I developed all the pretentiousness and affectations of a literature student. I cannot remember any other reading experience that made me feel so profoundl Starter for Ten started out to be the prose equivalent of a British John Hughes film. The year is perfect; The Breakfast Club year of 1985. Something like this book had been badly needed and I was so grateful to Mr. Nicholls for having written a deliciously long book. Like his protagonist( and himself), I read English in college. Accordingly, I developed all the pretentiousness and affectations of a literature student. I cannot remember any other reading experience that made me feel so profoundly embarrassed and yet pleasingly forgiving towards myself. I found myself frequently closing the book out of sheer reminiscence and at the same time longing to pick it up and continue with the foibles of Brian Jackson. I have been a Brian Jackson, a Rebecca Epstein, briefly an Alice Harbinson, sometimes a Spencer Lewis, never Tone as far as I believe(but then someone may have thought otherwise), a Patrick, a Lucy Chang and maybe even a weird as hell Chris(though I am Indian and my opinions on toilet paper are strictly private). I remember 'acting' the part of an ingenious yet indifferent literary miracle in class and always getting away with it. I am doing my M.Phil now, and I still have piles of thick books that only literature students would care to know of and display, and sometimes read. Talking about books I have never read but KNOW of( and isn't that what English studies is really about?) is second nature to me, and I know it is a skill that will last me a lifetime. Dropping quotes in conversations to prove a point is also another habit. Wanting the beautiful thing that I have only read of in great literature who in real life is nice and all, but just a great big tease, is also something I have experienced. I LOVE Mr.Nicholls's 6 ages of reading and I wish that the system would be introduced in English departments, so that upper-second class idiots like me can still live without Jacques Derrida and be proper postgraduates of English. In fact, I wish that there were 4 more sequels to Starter for Ten, like a series called 'University Years' or something, so that Mr. Nicholls would help me forgive the rest of my student years too. Having dabbled in student politics and student quizzes, I have to say that everything 'studenty' that Mr.Nicholls says is the real truth. And it makes it a little more easier to live with the Alices and Patricks of the world, if only in retrospect. I especially love his views on what is 'lonely' and 'the real me' which already shows signs of that great understanding of the human nature he displays in One Day. Shakespeare speaks subliminally through Mr.Nicholls and I hope that such a comment would not inspire ironic laughter and disbelief in him though of course something this 'studenty'obviously should. I wish that I had the genius of Mr. Nicholls to write something on what is current with me, 'the lost year' at age 23 where I find myself a postgraduate in English, hopelessly unemployed, irritatingly stupid when it comes to her M.Phil thesis, just basically going through what one critic calls "postgraduation ennui". But Mr. Nicholls has already done it. It is called One Day.

  26. 5 out of 5

    H.M

    was more than a bit pissed when I realised it’s January 16th and I’ve only read two books. Two bloddy books! And neither of them have been that good, either. From here on out I’m dedicating a lot more time to reading. Anyway, back to the book. Ever since I read One Day by David Nicholls I’ve been meaning to try more of his work. I’ve got his most recent release Us on my kindle, but I put it down after about fifty pages as it wasn’t working for me. I might try it again at some point though as I'v was more than a bit pissed when I realised it’s January 16th and I’ve only read two books. Two bloddy books! And neither of them have been that good, either. From here on out I’m dedicating a lot more time to reading. Anyway, back to the book. Ever since I read One Day by David Nicholls I’ve been meaning to try more of his work. I’ve got his most recent release Us on my kindle, but I put it down after about fifty pages as it wasn’t working for me. I might try it again at some point though as I've heard good things about it. Starter For Ten seemed like the right kind-of thing for me i.e a fairly light topic with a bit of comedy mixed in. The book is narrated by Brian, an eighteen year old who leavs home and goes off to University. For a large portion of his life he’s been a fan of the show University Challenge-a quiz show that became somewhat iconic in the U.K. He used to watch the show with his late father and the two of them loved it. The show pitted two teams from opposing Universities against each other and asked them a series of general knowledge questions. As was asked by my friend BrokenTune, did Jeremy Paxman feature? I’m sorry to say he didn’t. I think it would have been a great edition to have him there in a kind-of cameo role. Brian finds out that his own University is planning to put together a team to compete in the show. While he’s having a look at the poster advertising auditions he meets Alice, a beautiful fellow student who is also auditioning for the team. They both end up on the team, Brian in the hopes of making his late father proud and Alice, who appears quite vain and self-absorbed, for what I assume was just a chance to get on T.V. Brian develops a serious crush on her and this theme, Brain trying to woe Alice, is one that continues throughout the book and I’m not joking when I say it really began to piss me off. For a while it was sweet, the whole unrequited love thing, but after a while when it was clear that Alice really wasn’t interested in Brian but he STILL continued to chase her, I was tempted to chuck the book over my balcony. Maybe it was the humour that kept me reading, or my hope that Brian would finally wake up to the fact that Alice just wasn’t that into him. I mean, do men really chase woman when there’s literally no hope? Frankly I don’t see the point, it’s a waste of time. I think the thing that infuriated me most was that Brian was such a passive character and I was hoping that he’d somehow snap out of it. My wait paid off, kind-of, when towards the end of the book he did a few things that were somewhat out of character. He knew he was a bit of a twat and I think this self-awareness on his part helped me have a modicum of sympathy for him. What David Nicholls does best is create very authentic characters. There were a whole host of secondary characters, from Brian’s mum, to his friend Spencer, his friend Rebecca and the hilarious Patrick who was the captain of the University challenge team. The secondary characters made the book for me and if it wasn’t for them I think I might have gone through with my threat and chucked it over the balcony.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dean Tsang

    Starter For Ten features the incredibly unlikable protagonist, Brian Jackson, as he bumbles his way through university life in this coming-of-age novel. The main problem that irks many readers is that Brian is a pretentious git who spends his entire time lusting after his university challenge teammate Alice. But Nicholls is very, very aware of this. At some point in the novel, everyone calls him out on his horrendous attitude, and he eventually does get his comeuppance. But Brian, I think, was a Starter For Ten features the incredibly unlikable protagonist, Brian Jackson, as he bumbles his way through university life in this coming-of-age novel. The main problem that irks many readers is that Brian is a pretentious git who spends his entire time lusting after his university challenge teammate Alice. But Nicholls is very, very aware of this. At some point in the novel, everyone calls him out on his horrendous attitude, and he eventually does get his comeuppance. But Brian, I think, was a strong character. His narration, for one thing, is pretty strong, and his way of describing and hiding things was well done. There were a lot of moments where his attitude made me want to close the book and wince like I just had shampoo squirted into my eyes, but I'm pretty certain they were intentional, and it's good because some people do sometimes say the most inappropriate things. It's believable. What makes Brian such a good character is that, if you read the surface, you find that he has nothing going for him. He alienates himself from each of his friends through the novel, and harbors a lot of self-loathing. But, even though his narrative voice convinces you that he's an absolute twit, he actually does himself injustice. He learns some lessons as the book goes on, and he does attempt somewhat to redeem himself through his actions. He's not an inherently bad guy, he's just an incredibly naive and awkward individual who has a whole lot of growing up to do. Mind, the epilogue was totally lost on me and wasn't really necessary in my opinion. The ending beforehand was good, because I thought that was Brian going full circle and his knowledge and wisdom clashing wonderfully. He's a misunderstood character, but I think all of them are in their own way. Alice is a bit odd, and Spencer doesn't come across as the ideal member of the working class. But they're all young adults, so of course their characters aren't fully developed yet. Do I recommend? Absolutely. This made a train journey to Cardiff fantastic, and you might not like it, but if you're new to David Nnicholls, don't be afraid to give this a shot.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I love David Nichols' writing but I've been putting this one off for a long time because I love the movie so much. I know books are usually (almost always?) better than the movie but in this case I wasn't sure I'd be able to picture anything other than James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch etc. The book definitely holds up on it's own as an entertainment, but I was fascinated by the changes that were made to put this story on screen - and I do think that some of the changes actually improved the st I love David Nichols' writing but I've been putting this one off for a long time because I love the movie so much. I know books are usually (almost always?) better than the movie but in this case I wasn't sure I'd be able to picture anything other than James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch etc. The book definitely holds up on it's own as an entertainment, but I was fascinated by the changes that were made to put this story on screen - and I do think that some of the changes actually improved the story. This is a coming of age story about a very painfully awkward boy heading off to college with the idea that knowing a lot of stuff means you are an intellectual. Some of the thoughts that go through Brian's head are hysterical, as are some of the ridiculous things that come out of his mouth. But ultimately (in the book) he is a little hard to love because he is just so thoughtless at times. In the movie (here I go again) you can assume that Brian is nervous but means well. Inside his head in the book you realize he doesn't always mean well because he really doesn't seem to know any better and that makes him less sympathetic. Even in the very end - which I won't spoil - when he should exhibit some growth, he actually does something that, in my opinion, only shows that he has learned nothing! This is David Nichols' first novel and I think that really shows. It's a very entertaining but flawed start to a career that so far has peaked with One Day (one of my all time favorite books from 2010 but don't get me started on that crap movie!!) It's been several years since Nichols has come out with a book and I am very eager to see what he does next.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    I just, this book was adorable and cringey and embarrassing and gross all at the same time. I really really enjoyed it! So much so, that is definitely deserves 5 stars. It was just such a beautiful coming of age story. It's set over the space of one year, and Brian's, the main character, life at university. Along the way he meets various people due to various different activities, and each character was described so well and they all really came to life in my head. I definitely developed a dislik I just, this book was adorable and cringey and embarrassing and gross all at the same time. I really really enjoyed it! So much so, that is definitely deserves 5 stars. It was just such a beautiful coming of age story. It's set over the space of one year, and Brian's, the main character, life at university. Along the way he meets various people due to various different activities, and each character was described so well and they all really came to life in my head. I definitely developed a dislike for some, including Brian's romantic interest at points? Brian, as a character, was just fabulous, and even with his dorky and cringey ways, I found him very attractive! The twists along the storyline were unpredictable and shocking, and I loved every turn, for good or for worse, in Brian's life. I think the best part of the book for me was definitely the writing style. It was just so well written, in a easy to follow and simplistic manner. I also liked the Q and A questions at the beginning of the chapters. Such a simple but effective touch. Even if you're not a big contemporary fan, I would definitely recommend this book. It's just an easy pick up, put down, but won't leave you when you're not reading. Definite favourite! UPDATE! After just watching the 2006 film, I have fallen even more in love with this story and these characters. The book was just, perfect! So accurate to the book, it was unreal. Just, I had to write about it somewhere. If you ever get the chance to watch the film, go for it. Good lighthearted weeknight film! :)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    David Nicholls may be my new Nick Hornby. He certainly writes similar pitiable yet lovable British men. My dear friend Megan recommended this one after reviewed Us, knowing as she did my history with coaching a quiz team. This is not necessarily an examination of the inner workings of quiz bowl culture (cementing my suspicion that perhaps THAT is the book I should be writing already), it does get the quirks and endearing quality of those that aim to prove their worth at trivia. There were times David Nicholls may be my new Nick Hornby. He certainly writes similar pitiable yet lovable British men. My dear friend Megan recommended this one after reviewed Us, knowing as she did my history with coaching a quiz team. This is not necessarily an examination of the inner workings of quiz bowl culture (cementing my suspicion that perhaps THAT is the book I should be writing already), it does get the quirks and endearing quality of those that aim to prove their worth at trivia. There were times when I wanted to look away from Brian's inevitable tailspin, but Nicholls is so good at helping you to love characters despite their shortfalls I just couldn't. I loved the questions at that start of each chapter and the way they cleverly mirrored the action.

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