McDonell's first novel, published when he was 17, was an acclaimed 300,000-copy bestseller--a daunting achievement for this emotionally intricate but iffy sophomore effort to match. The author of Twelve, now 21, is a bit too experienced to be a boy wonder, but he's not quite a mature writer, a 'twixt phase that bedevils this novel about tragic family secrets, sibling madness and the abrupt onset of adult responsibility. Part one of the rat-a-tat-tat tale--most chapters are two or three pages--is set in Thailand, where Mike, a well-bred Harvard freshman interning for the summer at a Hong Kong magazine, is researching a story on stoned Western travelers. Part two takes place back in Manhattan as September 11, 2001, nears: Mike's quarrelsome parents are dead in a house fire and his revered older brother, perhaps responsible for the blaze, is prone to paralyzing hallucinations. McDonnell has a knack for capturing place with sharp-eyed, vivid prose: scenes set in Bangkok's whirl of sex and drugs, and his evocation of 9/11 disbelief and horror are both charged with a reality that's reportorial in its authenticity. But the two halves of the novel, linked loosely by Mike's search for the truth about his family, don't quite gel. Agent, Melanie Jackson. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Mike, a summer intern for a Hong Kong newspaper, uncovers startling news about his family and about himself while on assignment in Thailand. This is the second book written by teenage novelist, Nick McDonell, but should not be mistaken for a book intended for teens. McDonell's main character Mike encounters a world of hedonistic pleasure and nihilistic despair in the streets of Bangkok and all-too-enthusiastically dives in. His fun is ruined when the realities of that lifestyle become dangerously apparent. Amidst this disillusionment, he receives news from back home of a family tragedy and steps from the despair and ruin of one world, into the pain and confusion of another. The problem with all of this angst is that when all is said and done, the reader could care less, mainly because the characters are unlikable. Mike is totally devoid of principles. He is neither ambitious nor faithful, so when his world falls apart we feel little for his plight. The only other characters are just faceless drug pushers and haphazardly drawn journalists interested in nothing more than sex and drugs. Even Mike's family, who plays a vital roll in this tedious character study, is devoid of any virtues. In the end, this American tragedy thinks itself edgy but is really quite ridiculous and vulgar. 2005, Grove Press, Ages 16 up.
After receiving a tremendous amount of attention for his first novel, Twelve, which he wrote at the tender age of 17, McDonell, now 21, has followed it with a more meditative effort that reflects a more sophisticated, experienced outlook on life. Mike's well-connected father has helped him land an internship with a magazine in Hong Kong. The work primarily consists of tedious Internet research until Mike's editor, an old college friend of Mike's father, sends him on an assignment to Bangkok both to help a veteran reporter on a story and to find an award-winning journalist from the magazine who hasn't been heard from in months. As Mike searches for the reporter, while also experiencing the licentiousness of Bangkok life, McDonell intersperses the narrative with flashbacks to Mike's privileged but troubling childhood and his close relationship with his older brother. McDonell's authorial confidence borders on audaciousness when he includes the events of 9/11 in the book's denouement; there are still signs of his youthfulness-for example, one hopes that he will eventually expand his average chapter length to more than a few pages. Still, McDonell's prodigious talent is without question, and his current development is evident throughout this work. Recommended for most general fiction collections.-Kevin Greczek, Ewing, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-Having delivered his first critically acclaimed novel, Twelve (Grove/Atlantic, 2002), when he was still a teenager, McDonell shows that his talent is substantial as he turns to a different scene and character type. Mike, demonstrably sensitive and insightful, is a college student who grew up wealthy and is vaguely haunted by the mythologies of his parents' generation. He spends the first half of the book working as a journalism intern in Thailand, self-conscious of his role in the Bangkok of student tourists and expatriates, some of whom may once have known his parents in their own youth. He tries to live up to his ambition to investigate, not perpetuate, the Western fantasies of the Far East any more than is necessary to get both the story about backpackers and some personal info about his parents' college days. Back in the United States, the story takes an unexpected turn: Mike's parents have died in a house fire and his older brother has been released only recently from a psychiatric facility. The story begins again, in Manhattan, on September 11, 2001. While Mike disintegrates psychologically as these plotlines cross, McDonell offers a realistic bit of hope for his hero in the form of a faith assertion that older adolescents frequently find in the face of crisis. Teens who like the independence of Holden Caulfield will appreciate Mike.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
McDonell, who at 17 made a splash with his debut, Twelve (2002), delivers an assured and heartfelt second. The narrator, Mike, 19 when we first meet him, works as an intern for an English language news magazine in Hong Kong. It's a job he got because managing editor Elliot Analect is an old Harvard friend of his fathers's. It's a job that pretty much bores Mike silly, so that he jumps at the chance to go to Bangkok to help research a story on back-packing kids and their drugs of choice. " 'Just don't get arrested,' " his boss tells him. He almost does, and on one occasion he's almost killed. Much that happens to him in Thailand is unsettling, nightmarish even, but what calls him home is worse. Mike's is a family on the far side of dysfunctional-both parents alcoholics, a brother whose hold on emotional equilibrium is tentative to say the least. And yet he loves them, and when they can, they love him back. Rich, talented, charming-he thinks of them as a "catalog people, handsome and expensive"-they have made his growing up both pain- and pleasure-filled. He returns from Asia because tragedy has struck, forcing him into a complex and unwelcome role-his older brother's keeper. Most of Part Two is devoted to the horror of 9/11, understatedly but brilliantly reported, as Mike, fearing that Lyle, his brother, might be one of those trapped, works his way toward a devastated downtown. Part Three is a kind of coda, a squaring up, as Mike, now 21, attempts to come to terms with life's savagery. Engrossing, with indelible scenes and a protagonist to care about.
"Gifted narrator...William Dufris...creates colorful individuals we can imagine and remember." ---AudioFile