Twelve

Nick McDonell

Published by Grove Press, 2003
ISBN 10: 0802140122 / ISBN 13: 9780802140128
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Synopsis: Creating a sensation around the world when it was first published, Twelve established it’s seventeen-year-old author as a powerful voice of the new millennium. The chilling novel follows prep school dropout White Mike through the week between Christmas and New Year’s 1999, as he takes a year off to deal an alluring new drug to his privileged peers on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. But Twelve is not a coming-of-age story, because its kids never had a childhood their parents are off on holiday in Bali or business in Brussels, leaving hired help to look the other way as the kids stay home alone in their multimillion-dollar town houses, partying with drugs and sex and, in the end, much worse.

Review: On the surface, Nick McDonell's debut novel Twelve (written when the well-connected former prep-schooler was 17) feels like an East Coast Less Than Zero: the laconic style and episodic plot; the privileged ennui, drugs, and pop culture sensibility (with sprinklings of Prada, FUBU, North Face, and Nokia replacing Zero's Armani, English Beat T-shirts, Wayfarer sunglasses, and Betamax); the Christmas break setting; even the italicized flashbacks--it's all there. But Twelve also shares its casual, youthful arrogance with the jaded aggressiveness and jagged style of Larry Clark's Kids.

McDonell has crafted a pulsing narrative that clips along at an after-hours pace, pulling the reader along like an ominous rip tide, shifting easily from the Upper East Side to Harlem to Central Park to introduce a cast of loosely connected characters. White Mike, Twelve's clean-living, Cheerios-loving, milkshake-drinking drug dealer, drives the majority of the barely-there plot. ("Mike uses a teaspoon to eat his cereal, not a big soup spoon, because he likes to have less milk in his mouth with each bite" is about as deep as it gets.) Character development is limited to an easy shorthand ("Long legs, large breasts, blond hair, blue eyes, high cheekbones.") that results in a simple surface-skimming, leaving one too many caricatures of the very youth culture McDonell is writing about. Readers will see the blood-spattered, penultimate set piece coming down Fifth Avenue from page one, but any potential shock value or drama is immediately deflated in Twelve's head-scratching hangover of a denouement. --Brad Thomas Parsons

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Twelve
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: 2003
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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