by Nick McDonell
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Twelve by Nick McDonell

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9788433970114
Publisher: Anagrama
Publication date: 11/28/2003
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

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.

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.

What People are Saying About This

Joan Didion

An astonishing rush of a first novel, all heat and ice and inexorable narrative drive -- the kind of novel you finish and immediately read again, just to see how it works. And it does work -- a pleasure to read, a horror to contemplate, a real achievement.

Hunter S. Thompson

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.

Richard Price

In Twelve, Nick McDonell displays a remarkable arsenal of gifts -- wit, near poetic concision, a terrific eye and ear -- all of which add up to the Great Gift: the ability to tell a story, in such a way, that once engaged, the reader will find it near impossible to put the book down.

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Twelve 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 62 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
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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.
Skylars_Jess More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
clairebear7190 More than 1 year ago
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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Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i think this is a good a$$ book it was easy to go along with .and im one of those with no patience
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tour de force! Excellent book. Fresh.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.