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Review: Nothing to See Here

Updated: May 9

4/5 stars

Nothing to See Here, by Kevin Wilson (2019)

My one-sentence review: This book is a rollicking good time!


But I'll say more... I read another of Wilson's books a few years back, The Family Fang, which I enjoyed but didn't love. I didn't expect to love this one either. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that it is my book club's February read, I don't think I would have bothered. But I'm so glad I did!


The story begins with Lillian and Madison, best friends and roommates at a fancy girl's school. After Lillian is forced to leave (scandal!), she and Madison keep in vague touch as they go their separate ways - upper-crust Madison marries a Senator and lives in a mansion, while Lillian struggles to find her place in the world. That is until she gets a letter from Madison requesting her help with Madison's two step-children, Bessie & Roland. Their mother has died and they need looking after. But there's a catch (of course there's a catch): The 10-year old twins burst into flames whenever they get upset.


I don't know how Wilson pulls it off, but this story feels somehow completely normal in all its abnormalities. Lillian is there to "contain the situation," ie keep these kids out of the way and not on fire, so that they don't ruin their father's political aspirations. So, it's all a big secret from the outside world. And yet, the people who do know about it are very ho-hum about the whole spontaneous combustion thing. There are themes of dysfunctional family issues, politics, the meaning of true friendship, what it means to grow up, and... ya know... how to calm yourself down when you start to get angry and your body ignites. Lillian, the main protagonist, is weird and super snarky, and though she seems like the least likely person to be the mothering type, she falls into the role easily as she connects with these strange kids that she, ultimately, really identifies with. Like when one of the kids asks how they would protect themselves if they didn't catch on fire, and she muses ""How did people protect themselves? How did anyone keep this world from ruining them?"


I really loved these characters. Well... I loved some of them, and I loved to hate others.


Obviously I can't spoil anything, but there is also a moment about 3/4 of the way into the book that SHOCKED me, and I not only gasped, but followed that up with an "ooooooooh!" like you'd yell in elementary school when someone got in trouble for, I don't know, swearing in class or something. I loved it.


Feel free to join my book club, The Book Thieves, for our discussion of this book next week Thursday, February 4 from 7-8 pm! Contact me for the Zoom link.

 

UP NEXT: American Spy, by Lauren Wilkinson


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