Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Books I've Read: Now is Not the Time to Panic

I really enjoyed Kevin Wilson's previous book, Nothing to See Here (the one about the kid that spontaneously combust), so when I was doing an event at a bookstore last week and saw this, I knew I had to buy it.  I do not regret it.

Set in the present day and in 1996, the book is about a weird event that happened in a small town one summer and caused far-reaching repercussions.  It opens with a journalist calling a now-adult Frances Budge and asking questions about the summer in question.  Having never told anyone about it, Frances is terrified that the truth will come out and that it will shatter the life she's built for herself.

In 1996, sixteen-year-old Frankie is facing a long, lonely, boring summer in her small town.  The most exciting thing she can think of to do is to write her subversive Nancy Drew fan fiction in which Nancy is the perpetrator of the crimes.  But then she meets Zeke.

Zeke is an artist who is only in town for the summer while his parents decide whether or not to divorce after Zeke discovers his father is having an affair.  As lonely as Frankie, Zeke gravitates toward her and they are soon spending every day together.

An abandoned Xerox machine in Frankie's garage leads them to experiment with words and images until they come up with an enigmatic, yet strangely beautiful phrase that Zeke illustrates.  They make copies and hang them all over town.  At first people are curious, but not really afraid.  But as the summer goes on and these posters keep going up and spreading through the town like wildfire, rumours begin circulating: it's a satanic cult, it's a heavy metal band, it's a message from aliens...

As the summer goes on and different versions of the poster keep popping up, people become more and more unsettled and on edge.  Copycats proliferate. The entire town is on edge and soon this leads to tragedy.

I really enjoyed this story about the power of subversive art.  Frankie and Zeke were very real characters, dealing with their own problems and their own lives even as the thing they started blows up to be far bigger than both of them.  

It's also a book about the power of an unsolved mystery and the lengths people might go to to find the truth.  And how that truth can be both bigger and less meaningful than you might ever have thought.

The book is also very funny...

So I'd definitely recommend it.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Nothing to See Here comes an exuberant, bighearted novel about two teenage misfits who spectacularly collide one fateful summer, and the art they make that changes their lives forever.

Sixteen-year-old Frankie Budge—aspiring writer, indifferent student, offbeat loner—is determined to make it through yet another sad summer in Coalfield, Tennessee, when she meets Zeke, a talented artist who has just moved into his grandmother’s unhappy house and who is as lonely and awkward as Frankie is. Romantic and creative sparks begin to fly, and when the two jointly make an unsigned poster, shot through with an enigmatic phrase, it becomes unforgettable to anyone who sees it. The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us.

The posters begin appearing everywhere, and people wonder who is behind them. Satanists, kidnappers—the rumors won’t stop, and soon the mystery has dangerous repercussions that spread far beyond the town. The art that brought Frankie and Zeke together now threatens to tear them apart.

Twenty years later, Frances Eleanor Budge—famous author, mom to a wonderful daughter, wife to a loving husband—gets a call that threatens to upend everything: a journalist named Mazzy Brower is writing a story about the Coalfield Panic of 1996. Might Frances know something about that? And will what she knows destroy the life she’s so carefully built?

A bold coming-of-age story, written with Kevin Wilson’s trademark wit and blazing prose, Now Is Not The Time to Panic is a nuanced exploration of young love, identity, and the power of art. It’s also about the secrets that haunt us—and, ultimately, what the truth will set free.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like fun. And I can't believe 1996 was almost thirty years ago... That's just depressing...