This is my review for Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson
I intend to use the ***ASPECT method for my discussion and will not spoil the ending.
Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help. Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it’s the truth.Amazon
I want to start with the T again. Maybe I should have called this the TASPEC method /eye roll.
T: Why THIS Book?
I bought this book on a whim in Target because it looked funny and short. Sometimes you just need funny and short. Personally, I am often funny (at least to myself) and sometimes short (depends on who I am standing next to). Anyways,
That’s it. There is no more to the T this time. It was a whim.
Atmosphere and Style… and heck Characters
I am combining them because they are so interconnected. The atmosphere can sometimes be simplified down to tone and the tone of this book came through mostly through the writing style of Wilson writing in the voice of Lillian. It was… odd. I mean, the whole premise of the book is odd. Kids that burst into flame? That’s odd, right? That’s either a pretty cool metaphor or a pretty cool superpower… but in this book, the flames aren’t either. They are just, odd.
And so is Wilson’s writing of Lillian. She narrates and gives weird asides and drops the curse words and random factoids about her life that are supposed to give her character depth, but her tone is off-putting and most of the book is actually dialogue (either dialogue between characters or Lillian talking directly to the reader). I get why she is angry. I get why she is bitter. But damn, girl… stop wallowing and do something.
Or not. Just wait for a fantastical opportunity to literally drop from the heavens into your lap. Whatever.
I didn’t like Lillian and I think it was because of how she was written rather than who she was, which I know sounds weird, but there you have it. She wasn’t believable.. and, again, I know how weird that sounds for a character in a book with fire kids… but when you suspend your disbelief in supernatural things for the premise, that doesn’t mean you can’t bump on inconsistencies and badly written characters.
Also? The other characters are just as awkwardly written… which.. could be explained away by this being told in first person so we are getting everything through our unreliable narrator Lillian… but one of the main parts of the premise here is the deep codependent relationship she has with Madison, a character who sounds like a misogynist made a list of things that a rom-com villain should be and then just shoveled them all into one “best friend” character: pretty, rich, “overly” competent, conniving, ambitious, athletic, competitive…. We can almost understand why sheltered and awkward Lillian was her friend at first. But twenty years later? No. I’m not buying it.
There is also this odd element of sexuality that is thrown in… and seems to serve no actual purpose. It doesn’t explain anyone’s actions, justify anyone’s choices, add to anyone’s character… it is just there… for reasons unknown. This was the biggest missed opportunity.
Plot / Pacing
Lillian is the governess of the two fire kids. She doesn’t even encounter these fire kids until page 70 in the book.. And there are only 240 pages in this book. The pacing was just…. Way off. Also way off? The resolution. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that it was clunky and stretched credulity past its natural breaking point in order to be “happy.” The whole book takes place over a matter of weeks but somehow the relationships are treated as firmly entrenched. For all the words, not much actually happens.
Entertaining / Would I recommend it?
Ok, that’s harsh. I read it. I finished it. I did want to see what was going to happen… but honestly, I wish that I had picked a different book to read this week. I guess if you are going to be stuck on a bus or a plane for a few hours, this might be the perfect book to distract you. (I mean, only travel if you have to and be safe… there is still a pandemic going on.)
There wasn’t much fire. There wasn’t much tension. There wasn’t much of anything… except an oddly written protagonist I didn’t care about and the kids who were more like props than actual characters. The story has a great premise (the fire kids) but it is weighed down by the characters themselves and Wilson trying too hard to be edgy and sweet in equal turns.
*** ASPECT Method (I created this, I used it, feel free to do the same.)
A Atmosphere: How did it make me feel? What was the world like? This might include the overall tone.
S Style: What was the writing style like? Simplistic or sophisticated? Clunky or beautiful?
P Plot/Pace: Was it engaging? Were there holes? Did it feel too rushed or too long?
E Enjoyment: Was it a chore to finish or compelling enough that I picked it over other fun activities?
C Characters: Were they believable, sympathetic, interesting?T This? Why did I read *This* book?