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March 11, 2020

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson - a Review

by Alison DeLuca

Gosh, there's a lot going on this week. What else is a reader to do but disappear into a good book and forget the news?

BONUS - you can buy ebooks without touching money or leaving your safe space.

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May I suggest Nothing to See Here without a shred of irony? Kevin Wilson's novel (which he foreshadowed in The Family Fang, and more on that later) is at times funny, infuriating, and exciting. It's the perfect mind-vacation from all the drama.

front cover of Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
Nothing to See Here begins with two best friends, Lillian and Madison, who are roommates at their upper-crust private school. Madison's family is rich, but Lillian is a scholarship student and knows she has to work her butt off to make it in school... and in life.

When she has to leave the school and her best friend because of a scandal, Lillian sinks into a prolonged slump. Years later Madison, now married to a US Senator, hires Lillian to take care of her twin stepchildren.

This is where things really get weird. Bessie and Roland, the twins, both burst into flames when they are emotional. Madison doesn't want their strange ability to ruin her perfect life. Lillian's job is to live with Bessie and Roland in the guest house and make sure they don't burn down the Senator's public image.

It's a fascinating plot device, although it could have fallen apart in less capable hands. However, Wilson makes the twins believable and some of the best children characters I've ever read. It's very difficult to write kids without turning them into lisping urchins or annoying brats. Both Bessie and Roland emerge as living, breathing people who are furious with their father (the Senator) and also angry at Lillian.

Most of the book deals with Lillian's emerging relationship with the twins. They hang in the pool a lot to mitigate breakout fires. They talk to Carl, the Senator's driver. They take a trip to town for ice-cream, a seemingly simple task fraught with danger.

And throughout, Lillian revisits her friendship with Madison. Without being too spoiler-y, Madison owes her a huge debt from their school roommate days. Wilson explores this with his author's eyes wide open. The relationship between Lillian and Madison is unique, real, and well-written.

His style is funny with a hidden edge and deceptively simple:
“Timothy's eyes kind of flashed with recognition, as if the seventeenth-century ghost who lived inside him had suddenly awakened.”

And this section summarizes the wonderful strangeness of Lillian and how she approaches her nanny position:
“I had never wanted kids, because I had never wanted a man to give me a kid. The thought of it, gross; the expectation of it. But if a hole in the sky opened up and two weird children fell to Earth, smashing into the ground like meteorites, then that was something I could care for. If it gleamed like it was radiating danger, I’d hold it. I would.” 

cover of the Cruel Prince

I love books that surprise me, and Nothing to See Here is no exception. Once I finished it I got The Family Fang to read, which is even more infuriating and original. Fang, as I said, ties into NTSH in a really fun way, so I suggest you read both.

Some other books I've been enjoying: The Cruel Prince trilogy, Johnathon Strange and Mr. Norrell on Audible (excellent), and The Damnation Game.

Buy Nothing to See Here at Amazon

What are you reading?

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.Currently, she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.

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