Sunday, January 30, 2011

Twelve by Nick McDonell

"You like the power you have from being sober all the time around people who are fucked up."
Twelve by Nick McDonell was an unusual case for me, in that I picked up the novel after absolutely loving the film and wanting to read the source material. Twelve was McDonell's 2002 debut, written when he was only seventeen it tells the story of a fictional drug called Twelve and the impact it has on the lives of a group of New York City teens. The novel takes place over several days at the end of December, and the events center around a drug dealer called White Mike, who happens to have never tried drugs, and the people he interacts with, including Hunter who is falsely accused of murder while his parents are off in Europe, and Jessica who becomes completely addicted to Twelve.

The chapters in Twelve are short and concise, as is the writing. McDonell gets right to the point and doesn't waste time with flowerly language preferring the gritty and edgy, his characters harsh yet vibrant. The entire sensation I had while reading the book was one which reminded me of Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney. Bright Lights is a novel published in 1984 but which similarly follows an apathetic young man in New York City as he encounters drugs and deals with personal struggles. Twelve comes across as an updated version of this concept, and in a sense it comes across as a hardcore Gossip Girl,  a look "into the scandalous lives of Manhattan's elite". Except that in this case, the lives these rich girls and boys have are not ones to be envied. They grew up with their parents absent and raised themselves on drama and drugs, cultivating cynical viewpoints like White Mike has when it comes to religion, saying:
"Because really, when you get down on your knees on the pew; you’re just giving God a blow job."
The story behind Twelve is actually quite simple, but it is written in a style which makes it memorable. The quick chapters work like tiny vignettes, leaving loose strings only to have them come together at the end. I did have a few problems with the plot however, as the murder seemed predictable and boring and involved two individuals who were dead before the reader has much of a chance to care about them, or even really know who they are. I also couldn't have cared less about the jock Andrew, who's storyline involves getting some weed from White Mike to impress a girl. There were also a few more characters like Claude and Tristan who felt very one dimensional, and with such a short book it was almost like McDonell was trying to tell too many stories when he could have done a better job just focusing on a few of the more interesting. I also honestly got annoyed by the repetitive use of "White Mike" to describe the main character, it was almost as if the author felt he came up with a cool name and then decided to use it again and again and again.

Despite the flaws present in Twelve, it definitely presented some interesting ideas and an exciting look into the lives of some rich and beautiful people. I particularly enjoyed the scenes featuring Jessica, who at one point is high on Twelve and has a conversation with her collection of Teddy Bears. Although Twelve would have benefited from a few more edits, it is an enjoyable gritty read as well as providing some interesting observations about the relationship between drugs and teenagers.

Release Date: July 4th, 2002
Pages: 256
: 3/5

Source: Publisher
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