It's Hard To Be a Saint in the City

Nick McDonell was just seventeen when he wrote Twelve. That, along with some very good reviews, was the reason I chose it as book number 50 in my effort to read 52 novels this year. And I can tell you that this kid will one day probably write an excellent novel. But Twelve isn’t that novel. While the writing is outstanding the story reads like a bad Hollywood blockbuster, right down to the not-so-surprising surprise ending. McDonell hints at genius in his writing style, which avoids wordy descriptions and therefore moves along quickly. And it’s a good thing that the novel is quick moving and short (using the same wide margins loved by every seventeen year old student) because the characters and plot certainly don’t move the story along.

McDonell’s best-defined character, White Mike, is a NYC rich kid who takes a year off after high school to decide what he wants to do. What he ends up doing is selling (but never using) drugs to other NYC rich kids. Each encounter with these kids is documented in its own short chapter. The book takes place on the five days leading up to a New Year’s Eve party that all the characters have a part in. Much of the book deals with the way rich urban kids end up bored and neglected while their parents are out making more money or off spending it in the Caribbean or Europe. It would have been hard enough to care about these spoiled kids even if McDonell had bothered to develop the characters. And while the conclusion comes quickly, it – and a slapped-on postscript - is so ridiculous that I’m still not sure if it wasn't meant to be satire.

As one of the sixteen year old girls in the book says, Whatev.

Now on to the Wife by Meg Wolitzer.


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