Expensive People

Joyce Carol Oates’s Wonderland Quartet comprises four remarkable novels that explore social class in America and the inner lives of young Americans. In Expensive People, Oates takes a provocative and suspenseful look at the roiling secrets of America’s affluent suburbs. Set in the late 1960s, this first-person confession is narrated by Richard Everett, a precocious and obese boy who sees himself as a minor character in the alarming drama unfolding around him.

Fascinated by yet alienated from his attractive, self-absorbed parents and the privileged world they inhabit, Richard incisively analyzes his own mismanaged childhood, his pretentious private schooling, his “successful-executive” father, and his elusive mother. In an act of defiance and desperation, eleven-year-old Richard strikes out in a way that presages the violence of ever-younger Americans in the turbulent decades to come.

A National Book Award finalist, Expensive People is a stunning combination of social satire and gothic horror. “You cannot put this novel away after you have opened it,” said The Detroit News. “This is that kind of book–hypnotic, fascinating, and electrifying.”

Expensive People is the second novel in the Wonderland Quartet. The books that complete this acclaimed series, A Garden of Earthly Delights, them, and Wonderland, are also available from the Modern Library.

Reviews from Goodreads.com

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By Dan (The United States) · ★★★★☆ · August 03, 2011
Seven years following the death of his mother, 18-year-old Richard Everett bluntly tells his audience that he was a child murderer. A severely obese recluse, Richard never fit in with the images of grandeur put forth by his father, a boastful professor and mother, a beautiful and mysterious write... ...more
By Sunny (Suffern, NY) · ★★★★★ · August 13, 2012
After thinking about it, I decided to change this book from a 4 to a 5. It was a really powerful story written in the '60's about disillusioned wealthy youth which could've been written today. It's a little scary to think that not much has changed, but like Catcher in the Rye, the movie The Gradu... ...more
By Nada · ★★★★☆ · July 28, 2013
The prose was fluid. The protagonist unique, fleshed out, deranged, and engaging. The "plot" wanders though, sometimes in a seemingly aimless manner, but always culminating with an attention grabbing cliff hanger, a one line conclusion to the chapter that snaps the reader back to the story at han... ...more
By Laura (La Fayette, NY) · ★★★★★ · March 12, 2012
"Expensive People" (the second book in the "Wonderland Quartet") is a dark social comedy with well-off suburbia as a stage and a cast of unlikeable, larger than life characters who make an appearance of being regular folks, but they are monsters of their making. When the story ends, I found mysel... ...more
By Bridget (New Canaan, CT) · ★★★★☆ · May 31, 2009
I finished [Expensive People:] this morning, and I enjoyed it. I love Joyce Carol Oates which is probably biased by the fact that I grew up in Buffalo, NY. But I really enjoy her writing style.

[Expensive People:] is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek tale about Suburbia. The story is told from the perspe... ...more
By Nicka (Thailand) · ★★★☆☆ · January 28, 2009
From promising beginnings, it ... drags on. This novel may have been more significant and ground-breaking when it first came out. We know how suffocating suburbia is by now, countless other books and movies have taught us this. The portraits painted are exquisite but leave me unaffected: no one i... ...more
By Cathryn (Gaithersburg, MD) · ★★★★☆ · June 05, 2014
Joyce Carol Oates wrote this book, which was published in 1968, in the first person--as a 250-pound, 18-year-old highly disturbed boy/man-genius, who is holed up in a cheap rented room eating wads of horrible food as he writes a memoir about being a murderer at age 11. This is the second book in... ...more
By Amy (Long Beach, CA) · ★★★★☆ · June 22, 2010
Such a morbid tale, yet so well written! The characters are engaging, even if the plot is disturbing. However, I still found that I could not put this book down. Definitely not a book for those we get depressed easily. For those who like a well written story, this is your book! ...more
By Dev (The United States) · ★★☆☆☆ · August 30, 2014
(2.5) Oates is a maestro of the short form but I've never been galvanized by the few novels of her I've read. Expensive People continues this run. Marked by a gravity of insight but also a self awareness that mars the immersion into the novel. Of course, alot could be said of how meta this work i... ...more
By Erin (Chicago, IL) · ★★★☆☆ · March 29, 2014
If I could, I'd give this book 2 and a half stars. JCO makes some really interesting social commentary about the middle class and its children that still rings true today, but the narrator's incredible solipsism makes it difficult to read. The narrator/protagonist addresses the reader quite often... ...more