Cover Image: Now is Not the Time to Panic

Now is Not the Time to Panic

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Member Reviews

This is my third Kevin Wilson book, after The Family Fang, which was quite good, and Nothing To See Here, which was very good indeed. This latest novel, however, is my favourite of all. The strructure and settings are fantastic, the characters are well-drawn and likeable, and the dialogues are pitch perfect. My only possible complaint is that the story was a little understated, but in fairness understatement is sort of Wilson's thing, and in any case I was never bored at any point in the book, so I'm going to give it full stars and hope that it finds all the success it deserves following its release.
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Now Is Not the Time to Panic is an immersive, idiosyncratic coming-of-age story about two teenagers who spend the summer of 1996 creating and disseminating an artwork which has dramatic effects on their small Tennessee town. One morning in 2017, Frankie answers the phone to a journalist who plans to unmask her to the world. Now a successful writer, settled into married life, she’s never forgotten the summer she met Zeke, a fellow misfit, and the poster bearing her strange slogan illustrated with Zeke’s disconcerting drawings they put up all over town, setting off a craze which attracts newspapers and copycats throughout the world. When Mazzy Brower calls, Frankie realises she wants their secret revealed but first she must find Zeke.

Kevin Wilson specialises in portraying characters a little outside the mainstream. Frankie is the sixteen-year-old left behind by her peers, awkward around the idea of sex, losing herself in writing, living in a household dominated by her ‘feral’ triplet brothers; Zeke longs to go back home to Memphis, is given to outbursts of temper and feels out of step with small town life wanting only to create art. The intensity of their relationship and their obsession with their artwork is vividly captured, an obsession that Frankie never quite shrugs off. Wilson brilliantly portrays the way in which panic spreads, even before the turbocharge of the internet, with a humour which turns dark at times.
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4-5 stars rounded up

This is a coming of age story with a difference. 

‘The edge is a shanty town filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives and the law is skinny with hunger for us”.  Are you intrigued??

This is the story of sixteen year old misfits Frankie Budge and Zeke who has unhappily moved to Coalfield, Tennessee to live with his grandmother in the summer of 1996. Both are lonely, both are very talented and clever. They collaborate on a project and create a piece of art, adding the above two sentences and make multiple copies which they surreptitiously spread throughout Coalfield. They could not have predicted the consequences of their ‘arty’ actions and its subsequent dangerous repercussions. Fast forward to the present day to Frankie, now a well known author, who receives a phone call from a Mazzy Bowers claiming ‘she knows everything ‘. Frankie is in a panic, is the carefully constructed world she’s created with her husband and daughter about toe crumble? She’s kept the secret of her and Zeke’s actions for all these years - that seems about to change. 

This is my first read by Kevin Wilson and I’m impressed! This is so good, so different, original and creative but also gently humorous. What a great combination! It examines in a unique and intense way, something that impacts the rest of your life. How a seemingly great and novel idea of two shy, introverted and naive kids can become something huge and out of control. It leads to something utterly bizarre, a bit mad, at times a tad absurd but by the same token frightening. There are occasions when it has an almost other worldly, dreamlike or maybe even nightmarish feel to it.

The quality of the writing is outstanding especially the way the author so sympathetically presents Frankie and Zeke and he makes you feel for them. Their characterisation is exceptionally good and a big shout out for Frankie’s mum, she’s a top mum partly because she just lets Frankie be Frankie. 

This is a poignant tale and in many ways a tender one but which never strays into the saccharine. I like the somewhat abrupt and undecided ending which in my opinion fits perfectly. 

With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Text Publishing for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review.
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Now is Not the Time to Panic is another quirky and entertaining book from Kevin Wilson.
16 year-old Frankie Budge lives in the small town of Coalfield with her loving Mother and 3 Neanderthal brothers. She's a loner who doesn't "fit in" but is quite happy working on her book, a subversive slant on the Nancy Drew stories. She finds a kindred spirit in troubled  new boy in town Zeke , a gifted artist. While sharing afternoons together they come up with a plan to create an enigmatic poster to post around the town as a piece of performance art.  This simple act escalates as the 2 young people become obsessed with putting their posters up and there are unexpected ramifications as their idea is copied and the whole thing escalates rapidly and becomes a major news story. With people deciphering the cryptic message on the poster in often destructive, occasionally fatal, ways and Coalfield besieged by tourists and oddballs the couple's relationship ends badly after both have vowed never to reveal the secret of "The Coalfield Panic"..
20 years later and now a successful author Frankie,married with a young daughter,is shocked to get a call from a journalist who knows her secret. By this time events in Coalfield are legendary ,the posters had become an international phenomenon and had been the subject of documentaries ,movies and popular music. What does she do? She hasn't seen Zeke since for 2 decades,how will her family react?

This is a great book, a coming of age story as Frankie and Zeke get closer, a tale of a bit of innocent spiralling out of control and having an addictive effect on one of the young people ,scaring the other and setting off all kinds of unexpected reactions. Kevin wilson has great fun with some of the minor characters with  their laugh out loud eccentricities and guilty secrets. It's often moving,often very funny and overall a very entertaining read.
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Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson has an appealing narrator and is about loneliness and alienation, friendship, creating art and moving on from your past.
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I absolutely loved Kevin Wilson's 'Nothing to See Here' when I read it a couple of years ago and have since sought out all his other books and devoured them too, so I was very excited to review his latest novel, 'Now is Not the Time to Panic'. Once again, Wilson brings zany and occasionally savage humour to a story which is also tender and poignant. 

This novel set in Coalfield, an unremarkable town in Wilson's home state of Tennessee, concerning two bored teenagers who unintentionally cause the infamous Coalfield Panic of 1996. The narrator, Frankie Budge, is a sixteen-year-old aspiring writer who is working an "evil Nancy Drew" novel (which I would love to read if Kevin Wilson ever cares to share it with us as it sounds amazing). She meets Zeke, a talented artist from Memphis who is staying in Coalfield with his grandmother, who persuades her to make art with him. Together they create a poster with the slogan 'The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us." Using a Xerox machine stolen by Frankie's older brothers, they create hundreds of copies and distribute them around Coalfield, little suspecting the effect this will have on those who see it. Twenty years later, author, wife and mother Frances Eleanor Budge is contacted by a journalist who is writing about the Coalfield Panic and believes Frances might know something about it.  

There is so much to love about this novel. Above all, it is a stunning Southern coming-of-age novel which understands what it is like to be sixteen and bored and unsure of what one wants in life. Crucial to this is Wilson's evocation of the setting which he depicts unflatteringly and yet somehow affectionately. He writes particularly well about dysfunctional families, and also about cultural impoverishment and the effect this has on a bookish teenager like Frankie who "had no idea what other people thought was good or what was important. And so I almost never told anyone what I liked because I was terrified they would tell me how stupid it was. Every single thing that you loved became a source of both intense obsession and possible shame. Everything was a secret." It is against this backdrop that the impulse to create becomes so powerful. When Frankie and Zeke first start playing with the Xerox, she describes one of the first images they produce: "It's what, I imagined, art looked like. Ugly and beautiful at the same time." 

It's also, like Wilson's previous work, an incredibly funny book, thanks largely to Frankie's voice - like Lillian in 'Nothing to See Here', a female narrator who feels entirely convincing. Wilson is as good a prose stylist as writers like David Sedaris and Andrew Sean Greer, but there is perhaps more grit to his writing. For instance, I loved Frankie's description of one character whom she meets after a long period of separation: "He looked like he was one of two things: a man who made coffee tables from reclaimed driftwood and sold them for three grand, or a man who was very, very suspicious of the circumstances of 9/11." Gems like this abound, but they are set against a persistent melancholy which is the melancholy of both the  teenager yearning for meaning and of adult who longs to return to those teenage years but knows she cannot. 

I absolutely loved this novel - thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for sending me an ARC to review.
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Frankie Budge meets Zeke, both loners, a little bit different from your typical teenagers and they quickly form a strong bond. One day they make a poster which they plaster all across town and what, at first, seems like a harmless prank suddenly takes on a sinister turn......Decades later, Frankie receives a phone call and realises the past is about to come back to haunt her.

I'm not really sure how to characterise this novel. It seemed at first to be fairly YA however I am not sure if this true now I have finished it. The messages in this book are fairly subtle and whilst the ending won't be for everyone I actually really enjoyed it - I'm not someone who likes to be hit over the head with an ending and I actually enjoy picturing my own.

Thanks to Netgalley and Text publishing for an ARC in exchange for an honest review
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