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‘What are your best and worst qualities?’

This is the title of the essay Addison Schacht has to write to gain a place at his chosen university. Straightaway, Addison sees an opportunity to tell his story-so-far: to unburden himself, so to speak.

And boy is there a lot to unburden.

His ‘business’ – dealing pot to his peers – is booming, and requires a certain extra effort. His relationship with Digger, his best friend (NOT girlfriend), is getting ‘complicated’, as they say. His classmate Kevin was murdered point blank, and now Addison can’t stop thinking about who killed him, and why? And then there’s the small question of the rest of his life . . .

Over the course of his unorthodox application, Addison confess his triumphs, tragedies, strengths, weaknesses, blessings and curses to his academic jury.

The November Criminals is the darkest, most raucous and unconventional love story/murder mystery/ coming-of-age crossover you will read this year.


Addison Schacht, the conflicted hero of The November Criminals, is less interested in committing a crime than solving one. And though no one in the admissions office at the University of Chicago has asked Addison to discuss the murder of his high school classmate Kevin Broadus, he uses the application's essay assignment ('What is your best quality? What is your worst quality?') as a chance to get some things off his chest. The result is no tidy, eager-to-please essay but a book-length spiel - concerning, among other things, Virgil's Aeneid, Holocaust jokes, dope dealing, friends with benefits, classic cinema, adolescent ennui, Latin grammar and syntax, Jewish numerology, anti-Semitism, struggles with guilt, the hypocrisy of liberal politics, race relations in the United States, the philosophical downside of living in D.C. and, oh yeah, who killed Kevin Broadus. . . . The November Criminals is both a thoughtful coming-of-age story and an engaging teenage noir. Think of it as an existential murder mystery for the stoner pre- college set - Keanu Reeves's River's Edge, as written by Camus. . . . Munson is a writer with something to say; and if saying it slows the pace, well, given the brash voice of this audacious new writer, I wonder if he'd have it any other way.
Munson is a freewheeling stylist and expert mimic, having installed in his narrator, with dead-on accuracy, the highly developed tragic sense that only an over-privileged 18-year-old can effect without irony. . . As a general rule, book publicists who make breathless comparisons to Holden Caulfield should be caned, but [...] Schacht really is Holden's amoral 21st-century cousin: He shares the profane slanginess and the petulant self-righteousness of Salinger's famous malcontent.
Sam Munson's first novel . . . has the inventive, expansive flare of Michael Chabon's best writing and the highbrow-crime intrigue of a Donna Tartt book. The story is a classic coming-of-age tale: getting into college, smoking dope, navigating best-friendship with someone of the opposite sex - oh, and investigating a classmate's murder.
A clever debut starring a stoner, Gen Y Holden-like teen. Sam Munson's debut novel, narrated by Jewish stoner teen misanthrope Addison Schacht, nails the adolescent voice perfectly while leading us through his stumbling attempt to solve a mystery. Addison's witty, wandering asides reference everything from the Aeneid to Latin syntax to his favourite movies, as he finds himself right in the middle of the mystery he's been trying to solve.
In The November Criminals, Sam Munson - a writer of spectacular talent - delivers a hugely entertaining read as well as penetrating social and political commentary . . . Munson has written elsewhere about the difficulty he experienced trying to inhabit the mind of 'a full-bore, professional-grade a**hole.' But he needn't have doubted, for a moment, his substantial empathic gifts, which rival Bellow's and Roth's . . . Munson has written one of the funniest, most heartfelt novels in recent memory - a book every bit as worthy of Mark Twain and J. D. Salinger - about the goodwill and decency that sometimes shrouds itself in adolescent vulgarity and swagger.
In response to a college-application question, high-school senior Addison produces this scathing mea culpa, which takes the form of a rambling, first-person rant . . . His outer blankness of character ("I have no personality to speak of," he insists) conceals a hyper-intelligence that recklessly leads to a (rather hilarious) mid-novel assault on the apparent killer. The book has every earmark of a debut: bratty, precocious, tangential, and in love with its own voice, yet Munson ably reminds us why such qualities are irresistible in the first place.
Munson's funny, stoner-friendly debut follows high school senior Addison Schacht as he stumbles through the Washington, D.C., teenage underworld to investigate a classmate's unsolved murder. Schacht - a small-time pot dealer, consummate anti-social, and Jewish collector of Holocaust jokes - makes for a poor but entertaining detective, and when he places a stoned phone call to his prime suspect, Addison and his friends become caught up in the mystery he set out to solve. As Addison's sleuthing begins to unravel and his life crumbles along with it, his ramblings offer an interesting counter to, and often context for, his misguided attempt to discover the truth . . . Munson nails the voice.
Oh, oh, oh. OH! The November Criminals is funny. I started laughing as I read page one and I was still laughing on the very last page . . . The whole thing captures the adolescent voice perfectly. Addison wanders about, being disaffected, ridiculously self-aware, rude, self-centred and generally as obnoxious as privileged teenagers can be. It's all very Holden Caulfield but it's not just that: the murder storyline is based on real events. It's wordy and witty and clever. And as up itself as Addison is up himself. You might think that sounds like a criticism but it's not; it's a compliment. I'll say it again. The November Criminals made me laugh. Lots. And that makes it all right by me
Munson has created a wonderfully sharp, sardonic and engaging protagonist in this black comic take on 21st-century adolescence.
Sydney Morning Herald, Pick of the Week
If you swear by The Catcher in the Rye, you'll love it.
The Stoke Sentinel
Addison Schacht is a rebellious, smart high school senior in Washington DC ... What distinguishes this novel is Addison's distinctive voice. It can be rambling, colloquial, verbose, smug, precocious or extremely entertaining. Just like a teenager, in fact.
Daily Mail
[November Criminals] has the authentic Holden Caulfield tone, updated for the 21st century, like The Catcher in the Rye crossed with The Wire ... one of the pleasures of the novel lies in Addison's witty, worldly prose style, which contrasts comically with how he actually speaks ... His quest to find meaning from Kevin's death plunges him into eloquent darkness and great peril.
Financial Times
a darkly funny, whip-smart coming-of-age tale
Munson has created a wonderfully sharp, sardonic and engaging protagonist in this black comic take on 21st-century adolescence
Townsville Bulletin