Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson (Fiction)

Writing: 4/5 Plot: 3/5 Characters: 3/5

This latest from the author of the uber bizarre The Family Fang and Nothing to See Here is another tale of weirdness focussed on two lonely and awkward teens (Frankie and Zeke) with nothing to do one summer in Nowheresville, Tennessee. Together they craft a poster with the captivating phrase “The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us” and distribute it anonymously throughout the town with gobsmacking (British for astonishing) and kind of scary results. Decades later,a reporter tracks Frankie down, somehow having discovered her role in what became known as the “Coalfield Panic” and sends Frankie into a tailspin of fear.

It’s a coming-of-age story packed with trauma, art, young maybe-love, and some eye-opening insight as to how one can inadvertently have a big impact on the world. Wilson’s books tend to be unconventional stories with somewhat broken characters that you like in spite of yourself. To be honest, while I did enjoy reading this, the story didn’t feel like it was enough to keep my interest for as long as it took to read the book, and the characters were broken (as expected) but somehow less appealing than in previous books. I got kind of bogged down in the middle. The phrase — albeit an interesting phrase — didn’t fascinate me quite enough to make the constant repetition anything other than dulling.

Thank you to Ecco and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on November 8th, 2022.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson (Humorous Literary Fiction)

Writing: 4 Plot: 4 Characters: 4

Lillian Breaker has a huge chip on her shoulder about rich people, but when the beautiful and very wealthy Madison Roberts springs up out of her distant and checkered past asking for help, Lillian goes running. The job? To care for Madison’s husband’s children from a previous marriage. Sounds simple enough except for the minor detail that these children spontaneously burst into flame when upset. While they are completely unharmed by the fire, everything around them, including their clothing, is torched. And an additional detail — Madison’s husband Jasper is a U.S. senator under consideration for Secretary of State, so discretion is critical.

What sounds like a silly premise is actually a cover for an intriguing, humorous, and psychologically interesting book. Lillian is an angry, bitter, person who insists on seeing the worst in people (and usually doesn’t have to look far to find it). The children’s fire bursts are an external manifestation of a toxicity that Lillian feels internally. As she helps the children deal with their own anger and bitterness towards the hypocritical, self-serving man who is ostensibly their father, she also gains a deeper understanding of herself.

Hugely enjoyable. The writing is excellent — tight, sardonic, and hugely streaked with wit. I found it much better than I expected from the marketing blurb and now plan to go back and read one of his previous novels — I’ll start with The Family Fang.

Thank you to Harper Collins and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on November 5th, 2019.