Twelveby Nick McDonell
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Published to critical acclaim around the world, and soon to be a major motion picture directed by Joel Schumacher, Twelve established its seventeen- year-old author Nick McDonell as a powerful voice of the new millennium. The chilling novel follows prep school dropout White Mike through the week between Christmas and New Year’s 1999, as he takes a year off to deal an alluring new drug to his privileged peers on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. 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. But Twelve is not a coming-of-age story, because these kids never had a childhoodtheir parents are off on holiday in Bali or business in Brussels, leaving hired help to look the other way as the kids stay home alone in their multimillion-dollar town houses, partying with drugs and sex and, in the end, much worse.
“As fast as speed, as relentless as acid.” Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Nick McDonell is the real thing, a powerful young writer with the look of a dangerous freak and very sharp teeth. The ratio of age to talent is horrifying. His trick is he writes the truth. I'm afraid he will do for his generation what I did for mine."Hunter S. Thompson
“An astonishing rush of a first novel, all heat and ice and inexorable narrative drive A pleasure to read, a horror to contemplate, a real achievement.” Joan Didion
“McDonell is an authentic talent His novel will endure as a snapshot of his generation as surely as Less Than Zero did of the eighties.” Stephanie Merritt, The Observer (London)
“[McDonell] renders Manhattan’s cosseted Upper East Side with both the casual authority of an insider and the wry distance of an observer .Impressive.” Jennifer Egan, The New York Times Book Review
“McDonell, like the young Jim Caroll, displays a frightening acuity in his astonishing debut.” Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair
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Read an Excerpt
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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Nick McDonell was born in 1984 in New York City.
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