THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW:
A guilty conscience needs no accuser. The narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” knows this, as does Raskolnikov. But unlike them, 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.
THE WASHINGTON POST:
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 overprivileged 18-year-old can effect without irony. . . . As a general rule, book publicists who make breathless comparisons to Holden Caulfield should be caned, but in this case Doubleday, weirdly, is on to something. Schacht really is Holden’s amoral 21st-century cousin: He shares the profane slanginess and the petulant self-righteousness of Salinger’s famous malcontent.
THE DAILY BEAST:
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 favorite movies, as he finds himself right in the middle of the mystery he’s been trying to solve.
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE:
In “The November Criminals,” Sam Munson—himself a graduate of the University of Chicago and a writer of spectacular talent—delivers a hugely entertaining read as well as penetrating social and political commentary that sounds right (as Addison, with his fondness for italics, would have it). 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.
Sam Munson’s first novel justifies the hype that surrounded Doubleday’s purchase of it, last year. It 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.
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.
Debut novelist Munson combines a classic sense of adolescent alienation and a keen comedic voice to depict a bleakly funny teenage wasteland in the wilds of the District of Columbia . . . Echoes of James Fuerst’s Huge (2009) and the 2005 film Brick abound, but deft comic timing and a caustic, ambitious protagonist make this a perfectly valid entry in the teen noir subgenre.