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  • Writer's pictureAnna Karras

Book Review by Anna Karras

Now Is Not the Time to Panic

Kevin Wilson is a little offbeat. For instance, his novel Nothing to See Here contains spontaneously combusting twins and that’s just the beginning. But the quirkiness and humor are just the extra frosting here. His writing about coming of age is moving and heartfelt and worth the read.

Frankie is sixteen that unforgettable summer of 1996. Her small town of Coalfield, Tennessee is about as boring as it could get until she meets Zeke at the community pool. Also sixteen, Zeke, or Benjamin Ezekiel, is quiet and thoughtful, and also a burgeoning artist. He and Frankie become fast friends (who sometimes kiss) and they search around for an occupation to fill their summer vacation. Frankie’s triplet older brothers unknowingly solve their conundrum when they discover a hijacked copy machine in the garage. Zeke wants to make art so he proposes she compose a phrase (she’s a fledgling novelist) and he will draw something to accompany it. What they come up with is strange and juvenile, but also weirdly sophisticated and maybe even a little brilliant. They photocopy hundreds of copies of the poster and stick them up all over town.

It starts slowly at first, in this world without social media. Most of the residents of Coalfield dismiss the posters as a prank. But when two of the popular kids in Frankie’s high school claim they were kidnapped by the makers of the poster (to keep from telling their real story, which would get them grounded), the town goes wild. Are the makers of the poster drug dealers? Satanists? Are they ready to unleash a crime spree on their small town? And why do the police have no leads?

As the Coalfield Panic unfolds, Frankie and Zeke watch the escalation of crazy with fascination and a little bit of horror while keeping their secret. In the moments in between the poster frenzy, the two teens are struggling with their wayward fathers, both of whom have left their families to start new ones. To Zeke, who just moved to Coalfield with his mother while they figure out their next moves, his anger is bubbling up in ways that are new and scary to him. Frankie, who has had time and space to deal with her broken family, tries to help Zeke navigate the pitfalls of coming to terms with being deeply disappointed by a parent.

Wilson writes this novel with unforgettable images that will stick with the reader long after the story ends. With his narrative, he distills the truth that our teenage selves have an indelible influence on the adults we ultimately become. Extraordinary events might influence us, and no doubt they have a say in what shapes us. But in the pages of this novel, we see the mundane, ordinary moments of growing up that also have a lasting effect that reverberates in our adult lives.


∞ Author's Profile

Kevin Wilson is the author of five books, three of which are novels. He received a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Florida. He and his wife, poet Leigh Anne Couch, live in Sewanee Tennessee with their two sons.

by Kevin Wilson

Publisher: Ecco

256 Pages | $27.99 US


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