cover image Now Is Not the Time to Panic

Now Is Not the Time to Panic

Kevin Wilson. Ecco, $27.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-291350-0

Wilson (Nothing to See Here) spins a delightful story of two aspiring artists in small-town Tennessee. It’s 1996 when Frankie Bulger, an outcast who dreams of becoming a writer, meets Zeke, also 16, who is new to town. Together they make a poster with the cryptic line “The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us.” Thrilled at their creation, Frankie and Zeke make hundreds of copies of it on a photocopier stolen by Frankie’s triplet brothers, then post them around town. Copycats begin doing the same, and before long, local and national newspapers report on the panic caused by the posters, fashion brands reproduce the slogan on T-shirts, and tourists arrive in droves. Frankie and Zeke keep their involvement a secret until 22 years later, when a journalist finds out Frankie’s role. Confronted with the possibility of her secret coming out, Frankie goes on a quest to come clean with her family and reconnect with old friends. Wilson ably captures Frankie and her peers’ adolescent confusion and the creative power of like-minded teens, and his coming-of-age story is ripe with wisdom about what art means in the modern age. It adds up to a surprisingly touching time capsule of youth in the ’90s. Agent: Julie Barer, Book Group. (Nov.)