Book Reviews

Book Review: Now Is Not the Time to Panic

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By Kevin Wilson

Publication Date:  November 8, 2022

256 Pages

Being sixteen can really bite.  Especially when you’re an awkward loner like Frankie Budge.  She’s all set for another summer hanging out solo until she meets Zeke, a teenager possibly even more isolated than she is in her small town of Coalfield, Tennessee.  They gravitate toward each other and decide to do something special, something only they know about.  In a moment of inspiration, Frankie pens the lines: The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us.  Zeke provides the artwork and using an old Xerox copier in Frankie’s garage, the two hang their posters all over town.

What started out as a secret act to bond them in their oddness takes on a life of its own, with some people claiming the posters are satanic and others finding a positive meaning in them.  The phenomenon of The Fugitives spreads globally, inciting an era known as The Coalfield Panic, when an entire town loses its collective mind.

This is a wonderful coming of age story, moving from inception of the poster to twenty years later when Frankie’s identity as the creator of the panic is threatened to be revealed.  The relationship between Frankie and Zeke is sweet, clumsy and innocent.  I was struck by Frankie’s thoughts that being sixteen is still young, since that’s definitely not what I thought about being sixteen. But her sense of trying to figure out where she fits in life and what she wants to become rang true. The triplets were stand-out supporting characters.  How they didn’t eat their mother out of house and home defies imagination (although maybe being fry cooks helped with that.)

“Now Is Not the Time to Panic” interpreted by Wombo Dream

What I was missing, though, was a real connection with Frankie.  I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t more into her character until I realized that, despite this being in first person, there were at least two “I felt” and one “I thought” on one page.  With all of the filters, it felt like Frankie was acting as a narrator for her own life instead of experiencing it.  I wanted to be more in her head, and thought I should have been given the point of view.  As a result, I remained removed from the story.  As an aside, I also would have liked more detail on how this phenomenon went global and/or how Frankie felt about it at the time.  It almost seemed like a passing mention – or maybe that was the point.  I’m not sure, but it seemed like a missed opportunity.

So, final thoughts – the story was fabulous but I wish the execution had brought me closer to the main character.

3.25/5 stars  ⭐⭐⭐+

Thank you to NetGalley and Ecco for providing the ARC ebook.  I’ve left my review honestly and voluntarily.

Until next time, thank you for visiting. 

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