"Come and Get It" by New York Times bestselling author Kiley Reid is our "GMA" Book Club pick for February.
On the heels of her debut novel, "Such a Fun Age," Reid's new book explores a provocative and fresh tale about the stickiness of transactional relationships while offering readers plenty of fun, and discerning and layered anecdotes to enjoy. Set at the University of Arkansas in 2017, the tension-filled narrative centers on a residential assistant and her messy entanglement with a professor and three unruly students.
Millie Cousins, a senior resident assistant at Belgrade Dormitory, just wants to graduate, land a job and buy a house. So naturally, when Agatha Paul, a visiting professor and writer, offers Cousins an easy yet unusual opportunity, she jumps at the chance. However, Cousins' newfound starry side hustle came at the risk of being ruined by odd friends, vengeful dorm pranks and illicit intrigue.
A fierce and honest story, "Come and Get It" promises expertly paced plot hurtling toward its comically horrifying climax. The highly anticipated sophomore outing by Reid provides readers with a searing indictment of materialism and life under capitalism while painting an intimate portrait of desire, consumption and reckless abandon.
Read an excerpt below and get a copy of the book here.
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Agatha Paul stood in front of Belgrade dormitory at six fifty-nine p.m.. One block down was an ice cream store with outside seating and young women holding paper cups. An airstream trailer with a colorful pennant banner was selling tacos across the street. Two students with large backpacks walked past her toward the dormitory entrance. One said, "No, I've actually had oatmeal every day this week." The other opened the door with a key fob and said, "See, I need to start doing that, too."
A moment later, through a partially-frosted glass door, Agatha saw brown Birkenstocks hustling across a tile floor. She didn't know what Millie looked like but she immediately assumed that these shoes belonged to her. "Hi, Agatha?" she said. She opened the door with an outstretched hand. On her chest was a lanyard weighted with keys, an ID case, and hand sanitizer.
"Yes. Millie? Hi." Agatha shook her hand. "Thanks for setting this up." "No worries. Come on in."
Agatha stepped into the dorm. The paneled ceiling lights in the lobby were the kind that made her skin look transparent and baby pink. There was a front desk behind a glass window. An overloaded bulletin board: kick ball sign-up, dining hall menus, and flyers for movie nights (Beetlejuice. Pitch Perfect 2). The dorm smelled both dirty and artificially clean. There was a faint Febreze scent and something candied in the air. It smelled like perfume purchased from a clothing store, like Victoria Secret or the Gap.
Millie waved to a Black woman sitting behind the sliding glass. "Can I get the sign-in sheet, please?" she asked. The woman swiveled in her seat and said, "Yes, you can." Agatha signed her name beneath a few others: David. Hailey. Aria. Chase. She hadn't seen this many Black people in the same room since she arrived in Fayetteville (Millie and this security guard). Millie walked to the elevators and pressed a button, but then she said, "Our elevator is super slow. Are you okay with stairs?"
Millie wore black cotton shorts and an oversized red polo with University of Arkansas Residence Life embroidered in white. She had rosy brown skin, a pear-shaped form, and an expanse of dark wavy hair in a lopsided bun at the front of her skull. Millie was cute with bright eyes and large, lightly freckled cheeks. From the neck down, she looked like an adult poking fun at campus life; someone dressing like an RA for Halloween. In one arm she held a clipboard and pen. A dated cell phone was behind her waistband at her hip.
In a two-finger hold was the plastic loop on a wide-mouth Nalgene bottle. It was covered in overlapping stickers; one said Save the Buffalo River...Again! As Agatha followed her up three flights of stairs, she decided that Millie was probably twenty-two years old. She was the type of student that college student service centers swept up for pictures and profiles. Students paid parsimoniously to give brief campus tours.
Millie bent to use the fob on her lanyard to open the stairwell door.
"So you just moved here for the school year?" she asked. "I did. Are you from Arkansas?"
"No, I'm from Joplin. But I used camp here when I was little."
"Did you go to Devil's Den?" "Yeah. Many times." "It's really lovely over there."
Millie dipped her chin. "You've been camping already? That's impressive." "No no, long time ago. But I should go again."
Agatha followed her down a long, bright hallway past several doorways that had pool-themed cutouts taped above the peepholes. Written in sharpie on paper sunglasses and palm trees were names like Sophia, Molly, and Jade. Agatha had lived in a residence hall for her freshman year at Amherst, but then she moved into one of the Amherst Houses, which felt more like a boarding house than it did a residence hall. Evidently, aside from her own age and the trend in baby names, everything else had stayed and smelled the same.
"Is this okay?" Millie led Agatha into a tiny room with white walls and speckled tile floors. Near the door, a tall stool held a landline phone. There was a tilt and turn window at the far end, and in the center was a circular table and five chairs. Agatha was certain that whatever website boasted Belgrade Dormitory, and probably Millie herself, referred to this room as something like The Resident Lounge or Media Center.
"This is perfect," she said, and she meant it. There was a gentle tug of wholesomeness and she liked the lack of pretension. Millie removed a Post-it from the wall. Reserved from 8-8:45. Xo Millie.
"You're welcome to sit in," Agatha said, "If weddings are a thing you're into."
"Oh, no. I can't," Millie said. She swiped at the table; pushed crumbs onto the floor. "I have to do rounds in a minute. Oh wow, that's so nice of you."
She was referring to the items Agatha removed from her bag. A six-pack of lemon La Croix. A cutting board and knife in a gallon Ziploc bag. Two blocks of Manchego cheese. Raw almonds. A red apple and a flecked orange.
"Yeah? You think this will be okay?"
"Oh, for sure. They like anything free. I'm gonna grab them unless you need a minute."
Agatha pushed a chair toward the window. "No, that's fine. I'm ready now."
Millie left the room, but very quickly, she was back. The crumpled reservation post-it was still in her hand. "Do you mind what they call you?"
Agatha leaned forward on her arms.
"Do you prefer Miss Agatha? Or—sorry. Professor?"
"Oh. No no," she laughed. "Agatha is just fine."
Agatha's first real writing assignment had been a campsite review, when, at twenty-five years old, she drove a rental car to six different states. In Georgia, she started a fire without matches. In Louisiana she was bitten by a dog in her lower thigh (she gave herself two temporary stitches to hold the wound closed). And here, in the Ozarks, she started writing her first book. She spent two nights each in Devil's Den, Mount Magazine State Park, and Tyler Bend.
Perhaps it was silly to feel a connection toward a state she'd only spent six nights in, where she'd talked to less than four people, but this appreciation, however dormant it had been for thirteen years, was considerable enough to make her submit a recent change of address.
Fayetteville, Arkansas, had a screensaver, campus visit, Scholastic Book Fair beauty to it. There was a thirty-six-mile bike trail called the Frisco Trailway that crossed a stream not too far from Agatha's home. It was spotted with overly courteous biking couples (On your right, ma'am. Thanks so much.).
Every Saturday morning in the town square was quite possibly the cutest farmers' market Agatha had ever seen. She walked with a weekend pace, drank iced coffee, and bought eggs the color of wet sand. One Saturday, she spotted a little bakery that said, 'Stop in for a bloody,' on a chalkboard outside. The young man behind the counter said, "Would you like a to-go cup?" Agatha smiled under her sunglasses. "Yes. That would be great."
She lived rent-free in a two-story, three-bedroom house that belonged to a professor on sabbatical. The house sat on a grassy hill at Wilson Park; a large block of green with a basketball court, tennis courts, two playgrounds, and a winding walking path.
The park, and Fayetteville in general, was teeming with hills and trees. In many of the latter were thick webs carefully stitched into the branches with Gothic little worms that writhed in the shade. Agatha's street was filled with enchanting homes and people much like her: academics, liberal-seeming couples, families affiliated with the university.
Two blocks behind her home was sorority row. Brassy-looking houses with porches, columns, and stairs, all created with group photos in mind. There were often cars parked along her street with bumper stickers of Greek letters in white. Inside, through the windows, Agatha saw Target bags and paisley duffels. Tangled leggings in the backseats. Diet Dr. Pepper cans.
Agatha's previous trip to Arkansas came with the realization that she was very good at being alone. But this time, after three years in a relationship—now broken up in practice yet still married on paper—the act of experiencing a new place, however bucolic and convenient, was mostly grim and sobering. Agatha poured the almonds into a small glass bowl and laid out two wedding magazines on the table.
She sliced the orange into eight slivers. She took one of the La Croixs, wished it was colder, and popped it open. Being alone in a new college town was kind of like watching the local news in a hotel room. With someone else it could be amusing and fun. By yourself, it was a little depressing.
From "Come and Get It" by Kiley Reid. Copyright © 2024 by Kiley Reid. Reprinted by permission of GP Putnam's Sons an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC