Who Has What: Connections Between College Students and a Visiting Professor Lead to Scandals in Kiley Reid’s New Novel, “Come and Get It”


The cover of "Come and Get It" is green and has yellow and blue fonts on it along with an outline of a pig in blue. The cover is next to a photo of Kiley Reid wearing a black sweater.

Kiley Reid photo by David Goddard.

Kiley Reid’s sophomore novel, Come and Get It, centers on the lives of college students, mostly juniors, seniors, and one super senior, plus a visiting professor. What starts out as a job for a resident assistant and a place to live for the three students in the suite next door gradually and unexpectedly escalates into several related scandals. 

Reid, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, is debuting Come and Get It during a January 30 event at the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown location. Hosted by AADL and Literati Bookstore, it features Reid in conversation with Austin Channing Brown and doubles as the publication date of her new book. 

With this book following her first novel, Such a Fun Age, which was the 2023 Washtenaw Read book, Reid reinforces her expertise in writing plot-driven adult fiction full of sharp insights into characters, their choices, race, materialism, and the very human emotion of humiliation. Reid’s situational humor in Come and Get It also brings laugh-out-loud moments via student pranks and misunderstandings that are both cringey and hilarious. 

At the start of Come and Get It, Millie Cousins is returning to the dorms as a resident assistant (RA) following her year off to care for her mother Glory. This time she has a goal, which is saving up to buy a house in her place of choice, Fayetteville, where she is finishing school at the University of Arkansas. This setting has resonance for Reid because she lived there for a year before earning her Master of Fine Arts. 

“Fayetteville is an incredible place and one of my favorite towns,” said Reid. “It’s beautiful and hilly. There’s an ease to living there and there are four true seasons. None of my characters are from Fayetteville, and they’ve all come there for very different reasons. I was interested in what would bring them there and what they were expecting to get out of it.” In Come and Get It, what the characters end up getting out of it is not what they expect. 

An RA since her sophomore year and now in her second senior year, Millie is experienced in dealing with dorm residents. She brings themed door decorations to rotate in each month, monitors the RA phone when on duty, keeps up with her studies, makes friends with fellow RAs Ryland and Colette, and devotedly saves any cent that she can for her future home. Millie is focused, and “When Glory told her friends what Millie was up to at the moment, she often ended with, ‘Oh yeah. You know her. Exactly. Always likes to be in charge.’” Millie is on track with her plans until something—and someone—threatens to derail them. 

That something—and someone—are all connected to Millie’s dorm life. At the start of Come and Get It, visiting professor Agatha Paul is conducting research for her next book via interviews with students about weddings in the dorm one night. One of these students, Tyler, lives in the suite next to Millie’s room, and her two friends, Casey and Jenna, also join the interview. This fateful night links all of these people together through surprising connections that evolve over the novel and also include the other occupants of the three-person suite, Peyton and Kennedy. The conflict originates in Tyler, Peyton, and Kennedy’s incompatible living arrangement. 

From that initial interview, Agatha finds inspiration to continue her research, but her theme changes as she listens to the girls: 

She was coming to understand two very important things. The first was that she didn’t really care about weddings, not enough to write a book about them. The second was that she was completely enraptured by these young women, their relationship to money, what they said, and how they said it. 

Money, and who pays whom or for what, become transactional and revealing as the novel proceeds. Even Agatha struggles with the idea of payments as she gripes about her ex-girlfriend’s relationship with money, or lack thereof, but she also uses money to her advantage. 

The characters’ actions strongly shape Come and Get It. Reid channels the voices of college students, but the novel started well before her time in Ann Arbor. “The novel was mostly complete by the time I got to Ann Arbor but a lot of editing happened while I was here, sometimes in the middle of the night after my baby daughter would wake up,” Reid said. “Ann Arbor is the third college town I’ve lived in and it’s a nice benefit to be in a place run by students while writing a novel with so many students.”

Since Come and Get It focuses on what happened before and what happens next, the novel shows who the characters are primarily through their actions. Each decision by characters builds to their interconnected slip-ups. Incisive sentences tell what the characters are thinking and what their inclinations are. 

The novel—and the student viewpoints of its characters— were informed by more than 50 interviews conducted by the author. According to Reid, “These perspectives were vital to how the plot and characters moved and definitely played a role in making this a character-driven novel.” A passage in which Millie is looking at a potential house illustrates this: 

Entrance required a shoulder, a shove, and a bit of lift-and-push. The house opened with a suck, like it was coming up for air. There was a small living room, a bigger kitchen, a bulky set of stairs separating the two. There was a lamp on the floor, a woodfire stove that Millie assumed was defunct, and one lonely piece of furniture: a dilapidated denim armchair. It was dark and dusty and it smelled like potting soil, but Millie promptly experienced a magnetic surge. Ohmygod, she thought. It’s perfect. I love it. How much. 

Millie exudes a combination of dedication and carefulness. Then there is Kennedy, who transferred to the University of Arkansas. Kennedy lacks confidence, and “it always seemed like while she’d been deciding what to do with her time, she’d somehow completely wasted it.” Kennedy does not make new friends there, and she cannot make her mind up about whether to go out: 

…even if it was happening in her dorm, just an elevator ride away, Kennedy never felt like she had enough time. And she couldn’t tell what would be worse, showing up to see that she was one of two attendees, or arriving to a bigger group of already acquainted people. And then there was what she’d wear or what kind of shoes she’d bring. Ten minutes was never enough time to figure out how to be a person. 

This mix of immaturity and mistakes culminates into a perfect storm. Agatha later reflects on it, noting, “I wasn’t thinking properly, Agatha wanted to say. And no, I don’t exactly regret it either. But this is it, it has to be. Please don’t ask if you can call me sometime.”   

Reid said that her characters all represent an aspect of consumption: “Kennedy is most representative of this, in the ways she finds safety within the items around her. Agatha came to represent the theory of splurging, of throwing caution to the wind and getting what you want. And Millie—as well as the meaning of her name—became a symbol of work and hustle, and the comfort many find in the pursuit of material markers of adulthood.” 

Desire clearly gets the best of the characters at times. The working title of the book was Sooie, said Reid, and she added, “‘Woo Pig Sooie’ is a Hog Call and chant of the University of Arkansas, which originated in the 1920s. When the Razorback football team was losing, farmers began to squeal like hogs as encouragement.” However, the title did not resonate with early readers, and soon a new title surfaced. Reid described that “…my wonderful agent sent a text saying, ‘Well, what does Sooie mean? Come and get it?’ I wrote back, ‘I kind of love that,’ and I still do.” 

Come and Get It is about what you want and do not have, as well as what you have but should not, and the ways that money yields power or puts someone in a subordinate position. As Kennedy describes her former sport of twirling, which included fire batons, “If you go slow the flames get bigger. But if you go fast you don’t really see them.” 

Martha Stuit is a former reporter and current librarian.

Kiley Reid discusses her new novel, "Come and Get It," with best-selling author Austin Channing Brown on January 30 at 6:30 pm at AADL's Downtown Library. This is a free event in partnership with Literati Bookstore. For details, visit the event page.