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Review: Now Is Not the Time to Panic

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

3/5 stars


I've read two of Wilson's books before - Nothing to See Here, which I liked a lot, and The Family Fang. which was just ok. This book falls somewhere in between those. Enjoyable, not groundbreaking. Unlike in Nothing to See Here, there are no combustible children (or other such fantastical occurrences!) to keep the reader on their toes, but the humor has a similar cadence to it.


Frances, aka Frankie, lives in a small town in the middle-of-nowhere-Tennessee with her mom and her triplet, troublemaker brothers. Her father is long gone, having started a new family with another woman (and had another daughter that he ALSO named Frances). She's a bit of a loner, and doesn't really have friends. But one summer a new face appears in town - Zeke, another young kid from a broken home. He's living with his grandmother and his nearly-catatonic mother, who just recently learned that her husband was cheating on her.


The two become fast friends - both lonely, both a little sad, and both very artistic. Frankie dreams of becoming a writer, and has started a Nancy Drew fan-fiction book. Zeke loves to draw. They decide they want to create some kind of ART, with a capital A, and end up making a poster with a phrase that Frankie comes up with, paired with an image that Zeke draws. They decide to paper the town with it, making hundreds of copies on an old printer in Frankie's garage, and putting them up (anonymously) everywhere they can think of. Their art then starts to gain a momentum all its own. Other people start making copies and posting the image around town and in larger cities, spawning a moral panic and, eventually, leading to a couple of deaths.


The narration goes back and forth between that one teenage summer, and present-day Frankie, who is still reeling from the effects of this thing she made so many years ago. The book felt kind of like a stretched-out version of a short story - a solid premise, but ultimately a little thin. There are some outlandish coincidences, both for teenage and adult Frankie and Zeke, and I wasn't totally sold on the outcomes, but overall I think it was a solid "B, with room for improvement." :) In the end, I think my expectations were a little high, given how much I liked Nothing to See Here, and, let's be honest - realistically, how can you compete with children that spontaneously combust?!

 

UP NEXT: The Secret Rooms, by Catherine Bailey


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