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From The Catcher in the Rye, to The Basketball Diaries, to Less than Zero, there have been books that captured the soul of a generation. Now comes a novel for the new millennium — Twelve, a chilling chronicle of urban adolescence that has already created an international sensation. This is not a coming-of-age novel because these kids never had a childhood; rather it is a rare look into a sealed world rendered with authority and wit. Set in Manhattan between Christmas and New Year's Eve, from the housing projects ...
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From The Catcher in the Rye, to The Basketball Diaries, to Less than Zero, there have been books that captured the soul of a generation. Now comes a novel for the new millennium — Twelve, a chilling chronicle of urban adolescence that has already created an international sensation. This is not a coming-of-age novel because these kids never had a childhood; rather it is a rare look into a sealed world rendered with authority and wit. Set in Manhattan between Christmas and New Year's Eve, from the housing projects of Harlem to the penthouses of Park Avenue, it is the story of White Mike, a seventeen-year-old prep-school dropout turned drug dealer, and his privileged peers. White Mike is a loner and an anomaly: he doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, and he never uses drugs. His mother is dead and his father is depressed — but they're hardly more absent than the other parents who are off on holiday in Bali or business in Brussels, leaving hired help to look the other way while the kids of Twelve stay home in their multimillion-dollar co-ops and town houses, partying with drugs and sex and escalating violence. Access to cash is a given here and the kids of Twelve have it all; Chris and Claude and Hunter and Laura have the best, and most, of everything, but are constantly looking for something more exotic, and more dangerous: like the new designer drug, twelve. From page one, the seventeen-year-old author, whose clarity and skill far exceed his years, sets an icy pace toward an apocalyptic climax. In the penultimate party scene, when we thought we couldn't be surprised, we are shocked. And throughout the book, where there is an excess of everything but hope, we are filled with that very emotion as White Mike struggles for nothing less than his soul.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A disturbing portrait of over-privileged, alienated teens on Manhattan's Upper East Side, this debut novel displays keen insights into human behavior from an astonishingly young author who wrote it during his senior year in high school. Nick McDonell avoids pat characterizations of self-involved, self-abusing, self-indulgent kids and instead delivers a story that subtly shows how his tragically disaffected characters are driven to extreme risks by a desperate need to feel something -- anything at all -- in a world that gives them whatever they want for free.
Publishers Weekly
"White Mike" dresses in an overcoat and lives with his dad on Manhattan's Upper East Side (his mom died of breast cancer not too long ago). The 17-year-old doesn't smoke, doesn't drink and doesn't do drugs. He dropped out of high school and now sells drugs pot and an Ecstasy-like upper called "twelve" to the city's moneyed teens. In this shocker of a first novel, McDonell who was 17 when he wrote it carries readers through White Mike's frantically spinning world, one alternately peopled with obscenely wealthy teenagers who live in gated townhouses with parents rarely in town and FUBU-clad basketball players in Harlem. In terse, controlled prose, McDonell describes five days in White Mike's life during Christmas break. He introduces a host of characters, ranging from Sara Ludlow ("the hottest girl at her school by, like, a lot") to Lionel ("a creepy dude" with "brown and yellow bloodshot eyes" who also sells drugs), writing mainly in the present tense, but sometimes flashing back in italics. His prose darts from one scene and character to the next, much like a cab zipping down city streets, halting quickly at a red light and then accelerating madly as soon as the light turns green. And although it brims with New York references e.g., the MetLife Building and Lenox Hill Hospital this is really a story about excess and its effects. The final scene, at a raging New Year's Eve party, will leave readers stunned, as well as curious as to what might come next from this precocious writer. (July) Forecast: A blurb from Hunter Thompson and buzz about McDonell's age and subject matter should kick sales reasonably high for this slim first novel, rights for which have been sold in seven countries. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
In the world of wealthy New York, everyone pretty much knows everyone else. They belong to the same clubs, go to the same schools, and have the same drug dealers. Twelve follows a group of rich, well-educated teens and their connection to White Mike, a blond prep school graduate who has decided to defer going to Harvard for a year and deal drugs to his peers instead. McDonell's sparse prose captures the disassociation of this teen social set and reveals how the risks taken by these high achievers spiral into violence. Set in the days leading up to New Year's Eve, Twelve puts on display the absent parents who leave for Europe with no forwarding number, the girls who use their sexuality as casually as they change clothes, and the ease with which these teens can get drugs to dull their emotional pain. Author Nick McDonell wrote Twelve at the age of 17 and the book has an authentic voice that will strike a chord in teen readers while horrifying adults unaware of this underworld. Libraries with audiences with a taste for realistic fiction and prep school libraries with students who can relate to these issues would do well to add this work to their collection. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Grove, 244p.,
— Courtney Lewis
Library Journal
Authors keep getting younger; this one is only 17 and a student at a private high school in New York. Predictably, he goes after the spoiled rich kids who are going after the newest drug in town, called twelve. Let's hope that this acquisition was inspired not by sensationalism but by good writing. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
The New York Times
Mr. McDonell finds an authentic voice. . . . He gives us a palpable sense of the privileged but spiritually desolate world that his characters inhabit, without ever condescending to them, and he gives us some digitally clear snapshots of life in the upscale ZIP codes of millenial Manhattan. —Michiko Kakutani
Kirkus Reviews
Debut novel penned by a 17-year-old private high-school student in Manhattan. If you liked Harmony Korine's film Kids, you'll definitely be into McDonell's story. Set entirely in New York, it follows the closely linked but vastly different worlds of Harlem and the Upper East Side, where the accidents of birth and geography create problems that few outsiders might guess at. The central character is White Mike, a very bright but alienated prep-school kid who has dropped out to become a drug dealer. Mike has never so much as tried marijuana himself, but he likes the freedom drug money brings him, and he has a very ready market among his old classmates-a weird bunch indeed. There's Charlie, who pawns his mother's jewelry to buy guns. And Jessica, a debutante who trades sex for drugs. Claude is into guns, too, and it seems that most of the rich kids of Park Avenue have gangsta' fever: The coolest among them speak in black slang and like to hang out in neighborhoods way uptown even when they don't need to score spliff. Hunter McCullough, for example, comes up to Harlem with White Mike to shoot hoops at a gym called the Rec-but one night he gets into a fight with a kid from the projects named Nana. Too bad for him, too, because when Nana and Charlie are found dead one night on 117th Street, the cops arrest Hunter (who still has Nana's bloodstains on his clothes). White Mike, whose mother died of breast cancer not long before all this, is pretty demoralized no matter how you look at him, but he has enough heart left to figure out that Hunter's not the man. But, like, what can you do when everything's so wickedly messed up? Not bad for a by-now 18-year-old, but still far from good: McDonell should stay in school a few more years.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802144676
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/29/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 832,596
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Nick McDonell
NICK MCDONELL was born in 1984 in New York City. A graduate of Harvard University, he is the author of two previous novels, Twelve and The Third Brother.
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First Chapter


White mike is thin and pale like smoke.

White Mike wears jeans and a hooded sweatshirt and a dark blue Brooks Brothers overcoat that hangs long on him. His blond hair, nearly white, is cropped tight around his head. White Mike is clean. White Mike has never smoked a cigarette in his life. Never had a drink, never sucked down a doobie. But White Mike has become a very good drug dealer, even though it started out as a one-shot deal with his cousin Charlie.

White Mike was a good student, but he's been out of school for six months, and though some people might wonder what he's doing, no one seems to care very much that he's taking a year off before college. Maybe more than a year. White Mike saw that movie American Beauty about a kid who is a drug dealer and buys expensive video equipment with the money he makes. The kid says that sometimes there is so much beauty in the world that sometimes you just can't take it. Fuck that, thinks White Mike.

White Mike is not looking at beauty. He is looking at the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It is two days after Christmas and all the kids are home from boarding school and everyone has money to blow. So White Mike is busy with a pickup in Harlem and then ounces and fifties and dimes and loud music and packed open houses and more rounds and kids from Hotchkiss and Andover and St. Paul's and Deerfield all looking to get high and tell stories about how it is to kids from Dalton and Collegiate and Chapin and Riverdale, who have stories, of their own. All the same stories, really.

The city is a mess this time of year, this year especially. Madison Avenue is all chewed up with construction, and there are more bums on Lexington than White Mike remembers. It is crowded on the sidewalks, and the more snow, the worse it gets, and there has been plenty of snow. On some streets when the snowdrifts pile up there is only a salted corridor of frozen dog shit and concrete. It's been cold since Thanksgiving, very cold, coldest winter in decades says the TV, but White Mike doesn't mind the cold.

When White Mike first started dealing, it was summer and hot, and he tried to go as long as he could without sleep as a kind of experiment. White Mike already looked pale and scary to the kids he sold to, and then by the third day his jeans and white T-shirt were grimed out and he looked like some refugee James Dean, and the last hours were just a blur and the cars on the street flew past so close to him that people who saw flinched, but he had the cadences of the city down so tight that he was fine.

At Lexington and Eighty-sixth, his friend Hunter saw him and said, Mike, are you feeling okay, and White Mike turned to him and there was a smear of dirt on his face and his eyes were glowing in the neon light from the Papaya King juice/hot dog place. White Mike smiled at him and said watch this and took off running, just running so fucking fast up the block toward Park Avenue. There were a bunch of private school kids walking the same direction, and when they saw White Mike running past them, one of them said, loud enough for White Mike to hear, Madman running. And White Mike turned and walked back to them saying, Madman, madman, madman, madman, and the kids got scared, and then White Mike ran full into them, and they scattered, and they didn't think it was funny at all, and then White Mike started barking at them, howling, and they all ran. And White Mike ran after them, barking and howling, and Hunter ran after him, and White Mike let them get away after a couple blocks. Hunter put White Mike in a cab, but he had to convince the cabbie to take White Mike, and pay him in advance. The cabbie was jumpy and looked in the mirror at White Mike the whole ride. White Mike had his head out the window, staring at the pedestrians. When White Mike got home and collapsed in his bed with his shoes and clothes still on, his last thought before sleep was Why not? He had been awake for three days.

White Mike gets out of a cab on Seventy-sixth Street and Park Avenue. He looks at the number of the cab: 1F17. He memorizes the number every time he gets out of a cab, in case he leaves anything behind. This has never happened.

Down Park Avenue there are Christmas lights wrapped around all the trees and bushes, and the wires give the snow better purchase, so the frost hangs low from the branches. When the lights turn on at night the trees almost disappear between the bulbs, and the disembodied points of light outline jagged constellations in the dark air. It is getting past dusk, and White Mike remembers one night, years ago, when his mother was still alive and she sat on the edge of his bed, tucking him in for the night, and told him about Chaos Theory. White Mike remembers exactly what she said. The story she told him was about how if a butterfly died over a field in Brazil and fell to the ground and made a mouse move or a tiny shoot of grass bend, then everything might be different here, thousands and thousands of miles away.

"How come?" he asked.

"Well, if one thing happens and changes something else, then that thing changes something else, right? And that change could come all the way around the world, right here to you in your bed." She tweaked his nose. "Did a butterfly do that?"

"Did the butterfly die?" he asked her back.

The lights on Park Avenue suddenly turn on. White Mike can feel his beeper vibrating again.

Excerpted from TWELVE. © Copyright 2002 by Nick McDonnell. Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 56 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 62 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2003

    for teens, not adults

    ok for all you adults saying it was a bad book, its only cuz you dont understand it. i woudlnt recommend this book to an adult, it's way over your heads. For teens, though, it's one of the best books ever. Teens can connect to it on a totally different level than adults or lil jr high kids. Also, it's got a great story line and is true to wat life is today. trust me, if you're a teen, you'll love it.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2003

    Dull Dull Dull!

    This was quite possibly the worst book I have ever read. The characters were very flat and had absolutely no personalities. The chapters were extremely short - 98 in all and the book is less than 250 pages. The title is a bit deceiving because 'twelve' was only mentioned a handful of times and only one character used it. I think all the praise around this book is due to the author being so young. Big deal! So he proves he's got a good vocabulary and is a bit more observant than your average teen. This book might appeal to teens and those who have very short attention spans, but for people who want a good read...definitely don't waste your time with this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2002


    i just read this book, and it is very, very poorly written. one would think that with all the editorial help that the author's connections get him (his parents are rich and famous in the publishing industry; hunter thompson, joan didion, and richard price are all friends of the family; his godfather OWNS GROVE ATLANTIC, the publishing house which published the book) the book would be a lot better than it is. mcdonell can't even write a creative sentence--the structure for almost every single sentence in the novel is the same. noun, verb, object. noun, verb, object. and so on. and the drug trip (in which the author neglects to mention which drug his character is tripping on, apparently because he doesn't have any experiences of his own to draw on) is spectacularly unconvincing. i have to think that hunter thompson's blurb must be slightly sarcastic.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2002

    very disappointing... don't believe the hype

    i really, really wanted to like this novel. the author was featured in entertainment weekly, and its comparisons to catcher in the rye really made me interested. now i see how undeserved those comparisons are. the things the characters do... i would say that they are out of character, but the characters are never fully developed... things just happen. i think in a few years, we are all going to see just how dated all of the imagery in the novel is... a nelly song that no one even listens to now is prominently featured, as are constant references to 'hip' clothing lines. that was the beauty of the catcher in the rye... i read it in high school (just 2 years ago), and it still made sense even though it was set in the 1950s. twelve does not make sense now, and it definitely wont in a few years... and the ending was horrendous!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2010

    Quick Enlightening Read!

    Great book, easy and quick to read. Makes you really think about what goes on outside of your own world. Author did a great job tying the story lines together.

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  • Posted September 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Horrible Novel

    As much as people will rave and rave about how good of it, I know better. I've read a lot of books and this does not come close to the good ones I have read. There is no real plot, nothing to keep you guessing on where the story is going to take you next. Chacters are all over the place and very undefined. I haven't gotten to the ending yet but since there is no real plot the ending is just going to be a dead end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2010

    Lacking Character Development

    I thought the plot was really good and it was worth reading. But the part I like most about books is getting to know the characters which the author didn't offer in this novel. The ending was also very abrupt.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2010


    I was first intrigued by this book because of the movie trailer. The movie trailer sort of seemed like an episode of gossip girl but more in depth with drugs. But anyways this is my favorite book of all time. I recommend this to anyone and everyone! The ending was surprising. I wont give anything away but it was totally unexpected. I cannot wait til the movie comes out.

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  • Posted April 19, 2010


    I have read many books about drugs and dealers, but this one is different. This goes into the past of the dealer, White Mike, and looks at what made him into the shut off person he is now. Chace Crawford is going to play him in the upcoming movie and I am really interested to see how it turns out. The style the book is written is is interesting and keeps you on your toes. I recommend this to anyone looking for a thrilling book with a twist at the end. It is a really easy read that you can do in 2 days.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2007


    I started out reading this book for a class project (we had to select our own books from a library) and ended up finishing it the night I got it! I'm not really into all the books about drugs and what not, but this book was REALLY good and kept me reading! The ending is very shocking but also very believable and I would quite highly recommend this book to anyone between the ages of 16 and 30! (Actually, I think I've already recommended it to all of my friends!) Immediately after I finished this book, I looked online to see if there were any other books by Nick McDonell and I'm starting the second one today. If you enjoy reading books about crazy kids you'll love this. If you enjoy reading in general, you'll love this. And if you need something to read quickly without trying to analyze it, you'll love this. Twelve is one of the best books I've read in a while!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2004

    while my movie's on pause...

    I bought this book a year ago while I was on vacation and I read it right away. I figured that it'd be fun, since I'm a sucker for those 'violence, drugs, and sex' books, and I was right. I really enjoyed reading it. It's vivid and energetic. The story just sort of...feels as dirty and messed up as all of the characters are. I don't really know how to describe it. The fact that McDonell could produce something like this at such a young age makes me crazy with envy. I'm 17, and all I've done is a couple short stories and innumerable essays. Hunter S. Thompson and Joan Didion are talented writers, and if they speak so highly of it, no body should argue.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2003

    An Easy Read!

    This book a impressive coming from someone so young. The characters are a bit premature, but overall the book gives a good overall concept of the modern teens of today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2003

    Good stuff

    Tour de force! Excellent book. Fresh.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2003

    good ass book

    i think this is a good a$$ book it was easy to go along with .and im one of those with no patience

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2003

    'Twelve' really was an amazing story

    I used to hate reading till I found this amazing book, the stuff that goes down in this book is something I can really relate to in my child hood.. and although I am only fifteen years old I am forced to reach adult hood at a young age. This is by far the best book i've ever read. Once I started reading it I couldn't put it down I read through this book at least five times the first month I had it. I would love to read some more of mcdonells literature if he writes anymore. I think every person should read this book it really was a great story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2003

    Adults need to read

    I read this book based on a recommendation by a friend. As a teenager it is very hard to make adults realize things we must deal with these days, from drugs to sex and everything in between. This book was amazingly written and totally truthful. This is real reality reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2003

    The truth hurts...scares and keeps you turning the pages

    The story in its entirety will keep you turning the pages. It ends too abruptly, otherwise readers will be quite pleased. Individuals who know not of the fast lane may find the contents a bit unbelievable. Sadly, bits and pieces of McDowell's characters reflect images of those I know or have known.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2003

    Lover of Fiction

    Majoring in English, and being an avid lover of an assortment of fiction novels, I decided to purchase and read Twelve. Boy, am I sorry. I have to admit, this may be the absolute WORST book that I have ever read! Am so sorry that I wasted my time and money on this book, for it is an untalented piece and poorly written. It is actually annoying to read. A real struggle.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2003


    Twelve is one of those riveting novels that you cannot put down because it's so real. McDonnel pulls you into the characters' lives and forces you to see reality.. what's actually going on in teenagers' lives. It's sad (and shocking) to read what is happening in society, but it's true and you have to appreciate that fact. Read this novel not because of it's 'happy ending' but because of its style and appeal to all ages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2003

    Finally a Young Autohr who knows what he's doing

    This is by far one of the greatest books I have ever layed my eyes on. I couldn't put it down, even if I wanted to. It captures one with interesting characters and keeps one attached to a truthful look at young idividuals lives. It may help to be a teenager to really appreciate the piece. I really hope that McDonell continues his career in writing. I am waiting for the next one.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 62 Customer Reviews

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