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VINE VOICEon 3 July 2002
Buy this book because of the hype then forget the hype because it doesn't live upto it. But what does?
This is a story of vacant rich New York teenagers who get their kicks from taking drugs and having sex. This is a violent and sparse life where everything is a commodity which can be bargained for.
The sparse writing shows you the vacuity and emptiness of modern life - the only character written about in detail is the drug dealer White Mike who is the eternal observer - selling the life but not actually living it himself. He is the enigma to the other characters, the person to aspire to for what they think he is like.
It reads like a cross between the movie 'Kids' and the novel 'American Psycho'. If you like either of them then you'll enjoy this novel.
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on 21 February 2012
Professional circumstances forced me to read this novel, and I must say I wasn't very keen on doing yet another book about drugs, parties and misguided youth. My first impression of it could hardly have been worse. A 17-year-old published author who happens to have important contacts in the publishing world makes me raise an eyebrow alright, but not necessarily in admiration. Plus, just flick through the book and you'll probably think the narrator deems his average reader a serious ADHD case, given the length of the chapters.

But I had to read it, so I read it, and after having done so a couple of times I realised that it's actually a rather complex work of fiction. The brusque dialogue style is more an homage to Hemingway than carelessness. The seemingly pedantic references to Nietzsche and Camus turn out to be vital clues for the understanding of White Mike in particular (the novel's only round character) and the novel in general; no cultural reference is put there as a whim, they all serve a purpose. The very flatness of the secondary characters and the plot's depressing lack of substance are terrific indictments of the reality portrayed. And Claude's nature is, brilliantly, quite inscrutable - any other way of going about it (like in Schumacher's dreadfully Hollywoodesque film version) would have been disastrous. The vignette-like episodes are not consistently good, but some, like the creepy teddy bear talk show, are so sharp you can feel their sting.

When I think of serious setbacks, the first (and perhaps only) thing that occurs to me is the 'Afterword'. Not only does it decide to defuse the book's perfectly fittingly absurd climax (and I mean 'absurd' in the best sense of the word), but also does it unnecessarily make a muddle of the nature of the narrator figure, and this in no way materialises into added value to the novel as an interesting and intricate work of fiction.

In the end, I suppose this novel grew on me. You may or may not read it (by this I mean that you won't really miss out on a 21st-century masterpiece), although I'd particularly recommend this raw, biting and unapologetic novel to teens and young adults. If you like the themes but would prefer a distorted, perfectly insipid and brain-dead rendering in moving pictures, then and only then go ahead and watch Joel Schumacher's 2010 film 'Twelve'.
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on 30 June 2003
I read this book after a review in GQ magazine and found that despite it's length and drugs-orientated plot it is an effective novel. Ok, it's not The Catcher in the Rye but I believe that it's short chapters and simple plot will pave the way for the next cult teenage novel, this is the first 21st century attempt to sum up life for a teenager, to explore feelings and the ways in which we are all caught between the life we lead and the way in which we aren't necessarily happy with this life. The book falls short of having a big impact on the reader because McDonell tries to work a simple plot involving drugs and aspirations in a small teenage society together with his main character's thoughts in a short space of time. The effect this has is to leave the reader, having finished the book, unsure of the characters and with only a skeletal knowledge of their traits. On the other hand what we do learn is enough to make the book work and not become a failed attempt at a novel by a young writer.
Overall, if you enjoy post-adolesence novels like The Catcher in the Rye then you should read this book for an indication of what is to come in this genre.
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on 16 July 2002
I enjoyed this book as I read it, though over time I realise how little effect it's actually had on me. On picking this up I found it hard to put down - and read the whole book in 3 sittings. It reads well and is entertaining - with a choppy, cut-up style and some interesting characters. He writes with a good turn-of-phrase and you get a good feel for the types of people and places he portrays.
However, if you've read 'Less than zero' or (dare I say it!) seen Beverly Hills 90210 (!) you'll be familiar with the themes (obviously given here on a far harsher scale) - i.e. screwed up rich kids with too much cash and not enough love. The 'apocolyptic' ending is no surprise at all.
If I was 17 and I'd written this I'd be very proud (come to think of it if I'd written it at all at any age I'd be pretty chuffed!) It's ultimately an enjoyable read and I'll read reviews of his next one with interest now that that 'difficult' first 'semi-autobiographical' (which it seems quite heavily to be) novel is out of the way.
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on 2 June 2007
To be gripped by a book in such a way is rare; this book left my hand three times between the first and last pages - the second being a dire need for sleep.

Nick Mcdonell weaves a vignette-esque route through the lives of several young adults brought together by the very human emotions we all, at one time or another, experience. His ability to flip between registers is remarkable in one so young, and serves as a great compliment to the scenarios his characters involve themselves in.

I could go on, but truly the only thing i need to say is: read this book.
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on 19 September 2006
I ended up reading this book very quickly because I just couldn't put it down. The whole thing is so real that it almost hurts. I love the way McDonell switches between characters as it gives the novel a fast pace that stops the reader ever getting bored and moves things along swiftly, enhancing the sense of the city of New York, the city that never sleeps.

Some of the characters are deeply unlikable, but they are supposed to be. Some of them are incredibly chilling, such as Claude. For a while it seems as though the novel isn't really going anywhere, enjoyable though it is, but the ending disputes that. The ending is shocking and brutal, and although it can be foreseen in a way, it is still cutting and left a lasting impression on me. In fact, about a week after finishing it I had a nightmare that a guy I barely knew tried to kill me with a baseball bat...disturbing. I don't normally like books to give me nightmares, but it shows how effective and powerful the novel is.

I would say that it reminds me of the catcher in the rye, but it's even better as I can relate more to it, as Twelve is very modern. I think the author really manages to say something about an empty society of spoiled privelleged teenagers in New York, whose parents have far too much money and don't pay enough attention. I like the complex character of White Mike, the drug dealer who still seems like a nice guy, with a sad past. It is written in a very colloquial way which enhances the realism, some of the dialogue is perfect, just like in real life.

So if you want a book that doens't have easy answers, that will haunt you after you finish reading, then buy this book, I can't recommend it enough.
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on 22 June 2003
The commonest comparison for McDonell's precocious debut has been Brett Easton Ellis' "Less than Zero", probably since they both use the same device of narrating different episodes from the points of view of their various different characters. Also, like Ellis, McDonell seems to be attempting to find something of existential significance in the everyday - his popcultural references are certainly bang up-to-date. But there's a debt owed here to Jay McInerney's "Bright Lights, Big City" - which in turn borrowed the whole idea of an aimless everyman from Salinger's seminal "Catcher in the Rye". The writing is sharp enough to make the plot engaging but it can come across as a little contrived at times and feels like McDonell is trying just a bit too hard to ape a specific narrative voice: that of the world-weary youth who sees an essential emptiness in modern living. So while it's not as accomplished as the soundbitten hype would have you believe, neither is it as bad as some of the understandably disappointed reviewers have ended up feeling. It'll be interesting to see what he comes up with next.
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on 8 December 2011
I was drawn into picking up this book. A book written by an 17 year old about a 17 year old drug dealer. I mean I am a little jealous that Nick McDonell had the dedication to write his novel during one summer, I have been working on mine for 6 months and I have managed a chapter so far!! I also really enjoyed the film adaptation and wanted to read the book. Bearing all of this in mind I had high expectations.

I was surprised at how easy this was to read. The subject matter, 3 days in the life of White Mike, is not an easy one to make enjoyable and easy to read. I didn't particularly like White Mike, but I don't think you are supposed to like him. The majority of the characters in this book are deeply flawed, but you keep reading to see how all of the little plot lines tie together in an unforgettable ending. I think at some point in the future I will pick this up again and reread it and I know that I will definitely pick up any other Nick McDonell books which cross my path in the future.
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on 18 August 2003
"Nick McDonell is the real thing...I am afraid that he will do for his generation what I did for mine.", a quote from Hunter S Thompson and the publishers of this book have seen fit to fill the first four pages, I kid you not, with such lavish yet seldom as obnoxious praise for this, the writer's first book. I only hope that it doesn't go to his head and he actually considers for his next work to perhaps think about a modicum of character development. No one in this book seems troubled by anything resembling life as we know it and this is not because they are so spaced out on drugs - but such detail I guess would detract from the story line that is tied up so neatly at the end, it should have bows on it. Take this book on holiday if you want to pass the day as you lounge in the sun but I am of the opinion that it is neither thought provoking nor enlightening as to the lives of the type of people that we are purportedly being introduced to.
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on 17 August 2003
Picked up this book in a Singapore book store during a pre flight shopping spree. Mainly bought it due to the lavish praise and the fact that being young and hip I like young and hip literature.
Good Points about this book
- Its dead easy and quick to read (literally a couple of hours)
- The characters are very believable, despite the fact that I'm not a rich brat from NYC I could identify with a lot of the action and observations of the characters
- Brilliantly satirises the teenage world at the turn of the century
- Ending is ace
Bad Points about this book
- The ending is predictable (but still ace)
- There are no likeable female characters
- Sometimes the authors philosophising (through the lead character the Holden-esque White Mike) gets a bit pretentious and you're like get on with the story dude.
Final comment - Brilliant - not flawless but almost essential reading. I pity those who don't get it
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