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Twelve Paperback – June 29, 2010

3.0 out of 5 stars 179 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On the surface, Nick McDonell's debut novel Twelve (written when the well-connected former prep-schooler was 17) feels like an East Coast Less Than Zero: the laconic style and episodic plot; the privileged ennui, drugs, and pop culture sensibility (with sprinklings of Prada, FUBU, North Face, and Nokia replacing Zero's Armani, English Beat T-shirts, Wayfarer sunglasses, and Betamax); the Christmas break setting; even the italicized flashbacks--it's all there. But Twelve also shares its casual, youthful arrogance with the jaded aggressiveness and jagged style of Larry Clark's Kids.

McDonell has crafted a pulsing narrative that clips along at an after-hours pace, pulling the reader along like an ominous rip tide, shifting easily from the Upper East Side to Harlem to Central Park to introduce a cast of loosely connected characters. White Mike, Twelve's clean-living, Cheerios-loving, milkshake-drinking drug dealer, drives the majority of the barely-there plot. ("Mike uses a teaspoon to eat his cereal, not a big soup spoon, because he likes to have less milk in his mouth with each bite" is about as deep as it gets.) Character development is limited to an easy shorthand ("Long legs, large breasts, blond hair, blue eyes, high cheekbones.") that results in a simple surface-skimming, leaving one too many caricatures of the very youth culture McDonell is writing about. Readers will see the blood-spattered, penultimate set piece coming down Fifth Avenue from page one, but any potential shock value or drama is immediately deflated in Twelve's head-scratching hangover of a denouement. --Brad Thomas Parsons --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From 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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (June 29, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802144675
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802144676
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,607,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As a college student, I felt embarassed for my generation when I read this miserable book. There are better writers on every block of Manhattan than Nick McDonell. Absolutely pathetic. Great to know that his godfather published the book, though, and his dad got it promoted.
Joan Didion came to my school a few months ago and gave a talk. At one point, during questions afterward, I asked her point blank why she gave blurbs to books that it seems hard to imagine she could have had any respect for whatsoever. (I didn't mention Twelve by name, but I haven't noticed her name on many other books, and certainly none as wretched as this garbage.) There was a pause and then she sighed and said, "You get trapped into it. Old friends ask, and you don't want to put a sour note in decades of friendship because you wouldn't write a sentence or two."
Joan Didion is old friends with Nick McDonell's father.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the worst book I have read all year. A complete ripoff of Less Than Zero, right down to the italicized digressions--except in this books, it's a crutch that McDonell relies on because he has no story to tell, and no interesting characters. And if you can't see the ending coming by page 30 or so, you might an idiot. It's also very unconvincing--what drug, exactly, are they supposed to be on when they're tripping? (That's a ridiculous scene, by the way.) And what's up with the rich prep school kid going to prison and finding out it's 'not so bad'? Please.
The sex scenes (what few there are--this book is NOT shocking) are pretty ridiculous too: stuff to the effect of "The big scary black guy watched the virginal white girl take off her sweater. His menacing yellow eyes stared at her pale breasts." I mean, come on. And how come the white drug dealer is an intelligent, philosophical, sypathetic character (or is supposed to be, at least) while the black drug dealer is this hulking, evil monster?
And then, after I read it, I discovered that Nick McDonell's godfather owns the company that published the book. Funny, it doesn't mention that on the back flap. But it explains everything.
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By A Customer on June 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The most disturbing thing about this book is all the hype around it. Yes, the kid was just a teenager when he wrote it and that's definitely an accomplishment, but there is no way this book would've gotten published had it not been for all the industry connections he had. Morgan Entrekin, his publisher, and owner of Atlantic Books (Grove is owned by Atlantic), is also Mcdonell's godfather. I mean the book is okay, but there isn't really anything original here. There's no new voice of sorts and the content is old-hat teen druggie stuff, so I can't see how everyone's calling him the New Hunter Thompson, or the new B.E. Ellis. He hasn't had enough writing experience to pull off the hard-fought prose of those who have earned their merits.
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Format: Hardcover
TWELVE isn't the worst book ever, it just isn't very good. It's a prep school fantasy by a boy who was good at english and felt that there was something apocalyptic or at least meaningful in the teenage parties and consumerism that surround him. The upper east side is full of young ironists who quote Veblen and Ellis, sadly McDonell is not one of them, otherwise he would have known better.
If you want to read about spoiled rich kids, LESS THAN ZERO is the classic, it's short and funny. The sequel, RULES OF ATTRACTION is pointless, but it should be mandatory reading for anyone thinking of going to an eastern liberal arts college.
Ellis borrowed much of his style from Dennis Cooper. If yoou want to read something "shocking" TRY is a much better book about missing love and prevalent drugs.
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By A Customer on July 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
Please note that of all of the reviews, the highest ratings were given by 13-year-olds who spell recommend with two c's. That said, Twelve is a predictable adolescent novel with a ridiculous ending that turns what could be interesting characters into nothing more than caricatures: the pretty, but snobby girl, the angry teens, etc. If you want a quick read that won't leave you caring about its characters or plot, go out and buy. If you want to learn something new about NYC's teenaged elite, this is not the book for you.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Self-aware teen writer Nick McDonell's novel "Twelve" burst into the literary market in a spray of irrelevent hype earlier this year. With a painfully two-dimensional cast and a fragmented non-storyline, "Twelve" is not shocking, just shockingly dull.
White Mike is a dropout drug dealer whose father ignores him and whose mother is dead of breast cancer. Hardly different from the spoiled rich kids he deals to, whose parents leave them on vacations and business, and ignore the resulting hedonism that they indulge in. Then there is Jessica, an addict of the drug Twelve, the creepy Lionel, unfortunate Hunter, "hottest girl" Sara, and numerous others. Murder, sex, drugs, and misery culminate in a violent New Year's Eve.
There isn't much of a plot to "Twelve." Several vaguely-connected characters drift in and out of various situations -- some of them connected to the vaguely-defined plot, some not. The actual text of the novel is very short. All the chapters are only a few pages long, and the shortest is one line long; the type is unusually large to expand this to a normal adult-novel length. The prose is stark and sparse to the point of being nonexistant. Hardly anything is described, beyond a description of blonde hair or rock-hard muscles, a smell or a spoon; it reads more like a screenplay, without the order and careful writing. The grand finale will annoy rather than shock, as McDonell seems to have no idea what to do with his plotlines.
And McDonell, precocious little man that he is, has also abandoned the basic rules of punctuation and grammar, making mistakes that I stopped making at the age of twelve. In the first two pages of White Mike's ponderings, his name is used in almost every sentence ("White Mike thought this. White Mike saw that").
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