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Twelve

by Nick McDonell

ISBN 0802140122 / 9780802140128 / 0-8021-4012-2
Publisher Grove Press
Language English
Edition Softcover
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Book summary

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 [via]