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The Topeka School

By: Ben Lerner

Adam Gordon is a senior at Topeka High School, class of ’97. His mother, Jane, is a famous feminist author; his father, Jonathan, is an expert at getting “lost boys” to open up. They both work at a psychiatric clinic that has attracted staff and patients from around the world. Adam is a renowned debater, expected to win a national championship before he heads to college. He is one of the cool kids, ready to fight or, better, freestyle about fighting if it keeps his peers from thinking of him as weak. Adam is also one of the seniors who bring the loner Darren Eberheart—who is, unbeknownst to Adam, his father’s patient—into the social scene, to disastrous effect.

Deftly shifting perspectives and time periods, The Topeka School is the story of a family, its struggles and its strengths: Jane’s reckoning with the legacy of an abusive father, Jonathan’s marital transgressions, the challenge of raising a good son in a culture of toxic masculinity. It is also a riveting prehistory of the present: the collapse of public speech, the trolls and tyrants of the New Right, and the ongoing crisis of identity among white men.

ISBN: 9780374277789

JLG Release: Dec 2019

Sensitive Areas: Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: Drug Use/Abuse
Topics: High schools , Competitive debate , Psychiatric clinics , Families , Topeka, Kansas

$13.50  Member Price

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Awards & Honors

Kirkus Best Books - 2019
NPR’s Book Concierge - 2019
NYT Notable Books - 2019
WP Best Books - 2019
CPL Best Books - 2019
NBCC Awards Finalist - 2020
Los Angeles Times Fiction Winner

Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Kirkus Reviews*, Publishers Weekly, Booklist

Book Details



First Release

December 2019



Dewey Classification


Trim Size

9" x 6"

Page Count


Accelerated Reader


Scholastic Reading Counts





Print Book


Hardcover edition


Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Adult

Potentially Sensitive Areas

Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: Drug Use/Abuse


High schools, Competitive debate, Psychiatric clinics, Families, Topeka, Kansas,

Standard MARC Record

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Cover Art

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Book Genres

Realistic Fiction

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