Kiley Reid Releases New Novel ‘Come & Get It’

Acclaimed novelist and U-M assistant professor Kiley Reid writes of what she knows: college life.
Cover image courtesy of Penguin Random House

Following the seismic success of her 2019 debut novel, Such a Fun Age, bestselling author Kiley Reid — who moved to Ann Arbor in 2022 to teach creative writing at the University of Michigan — is back with an aptly titled, much-anticipated second book called Come and Get It.

Set in the college town of Fayetteville, Arkansas, Come and Get It focuses on an eclectic group of characters, including a romantically adrift, 37-year-old visiting professor named Agatha; a cash-strapped, 24-year-old dorm RA, Millie, who fends off racial microaggressions while dreaming of buying a home of her own; and three suitemates with backgrounds, styles, and priorities that clash.

The down-at-the-heels dormitory that plays host to most of the novel’s action houses transfer and scholarship students, so it’s a place where students “end up” rather than choose to live.

“I’m really compelled by this tricky phase when human beings are learning how to live without their parents,” Reid says. “It’s where you are trying on different personalities and learning if you’re a grown-up or not, or what your tendencies are, or how you like to keep your things, and what you do when no one else is watching.”

While the book is in no way autobiographical, a few parts of Reid’s life experiences are woven into Come and Get It’s details.

For instance, like Agatha, Reid got the opportunity to live for one year in Fayetteville, when her husband accepted a position at a university there. During this time, she worked as a barista, wrote the beginnings of Such a Fun Age, and applied to (and earned a spot in) the University of Iowa’s prestigious graduate-level Writers’ Workshop.

“Fayetteville is really beautiful,” Reid says. “It’s relatively walkable for an American city, and I think that that has a direct effect on the quality of a place.”

During her later stint at Iowa, Reid also, like Agatha, interviewed undergraduate students to hear their thoughts about money, and not only had Reid been a transfer college student herself, switching from the University of Arizona to Marymount Manhattan College midstream, but she also worked as a resident adviser at the latter institution.

Author Kiley Reid teaches creative writing at the University of Michigan. Her latest novel, set in Arkansas, explores campus life. // Photograph by David Goddard

So to say Reid has been exposed to a lot of different college campus cultures would be an understatement. What have been her impressions since arriving at U-M?

“This is the third university that I’ve taught at, and I would absolutely say the students here are ambitious in a way that I haven’t encountered before,” she says. “Football is king here in a way that it wasn’t at the other universities I taught at. And the students are really bright.”

One of the brightest students in Come and Get It is an Alabamian coed named Casey. Reid highlights Casey’s Southern accent by using vernacular, which can be tricky.

“I wanted to differentiate her speech in a way that was accurate to how she would talk in the real world, but it also became a great literary device in terms of who is speaking when,” Reid says. “Since there are so many students, you definitely know when Casey is speaking.”

More broadly, dialogue is one of Reid’s specialties, and this may be partly a result of her early college focus on theater.

“I read a lot of Shakespeare and different contemporary plays in college and definitely learned a lot about rhythms and word choice and gesture,” she says. “When I was doing interviews for this novel, the parts that typically stood out were not an interviewee’s answer, but rather the in-between parts, or when they start and stop themselves, or when they resay something, or little verbal habits they have. I tried to put a lot of those into the novel.”

Come and Get It’s fictional interviewer, Agatha — spinning out after a rift with her longtime
girlfriend in Chicago — crosses ethical boundaries by not only eavesdropping on the suitemates from the vantage point of Millie’s room (they all share a thin wall) but also compiling the young women’s quotes for splashy, cringey Teen Vogue stories.

“I was interested in using … Fayetteville as a bit of a palate cleanser and a get-out-of-jail- free card for Agatha,” Reid says. “She’s in a place where she doesn’t know anyone, she’s not in a major city, and she finds herself behaving like she can do whatever she wants because it doesn’t really count in this place. … She’s on a bit of a strange rumspringa.”

As with any engaging novel, chaos ensues. “Millie says to Agatha in the first chapter, ‘People hear what they want to hear,’” Reid says. “If the novel did have a thesis, it might be floating around in that sphere.”

This story originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. To read more, pick up a copy of Hour Detroit at a local retail outlet. Our digital edition will be available on April 5.