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Reviews of Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson

Now Is Not the Time to Panic

A Novel

by Kevin Wilson

Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson X
Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2022, 256 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2023, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Erin Lyndal Martin
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About this Book

Book Summary

An exuberant, bighearted novel about two teenage misfits who spectacularly collide one fateful summer, and the art they make that changes their lives forever.

Sixteen-year-old Frankie Budge—aspiring writer, indifferent student, offbeat loner—is determined to make it through yet another summer in Coalfield, Tennessee, when she meets Zeke, a talented artist who has just moved into his grandmother's house and who is as awkward as Frankie is. Romantic and creative sparks begin to fly, and when the two jointly make an unsigned poster, shot through with an enigmatic phrase, it becomes unforgettable to anyone who sees it. The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us.

The posters begin appearing everywhere, and people wonder who is behind them and start to panic. Satanists, kidnappers—the rumors won't stop, and soon the mystery has dangerous repercussions that spread far beyond the town.

Twenty years later, Frances Eleanor Budge gets a call that threatens to upend her carefully built life: a journalist named Mazzy Brower is writing a story about the Coalfield Panic of 1996. Might Frances know something about that?

A bold coming-of-age story, written with Kevin Wilson's trademark wit and blazing prose, Now Is Not the Time to Panic is a nuanced exploration of young love, identity, and the power of art. It's also about the secrets that haunt us—and, ultimately, what the truth will set free.

Mazzy Brower

I ANSWERED THE PHONE, AND THERE WAS A WOMAN'S VOICE on the other end, a voice that I didn't recognize. "Is this Frances Budge?" she asked, and I was certain it was a telemarketer, because nobody called me Frances. In the living room, my seven-year-old daughter had made her own set of drums, including a tin plate for a cymbal, so it was loud as hell in the house, with this ting-bang-ting-ting-bang rhythm she had going on. I said, "I'm sorry, but I'm not interested," and started to hang up, but the woman, understanding that I was done with her, tried her best to pull me in.

"The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers," she said, her voice rising in pitch, and I froze. I nearly dropped the phone. And together, in harmony, we both completed the phrase, "We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us."

"So you know it," the woman said.

"I've heard it before, yeah, of course," I said, already trying to run away. I could feel the world spinning around me. ...

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Reviews

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Wilson makes the story so compelling that I risked injury as I couldn't put it down while walking around my apartment. The bond that Frankie and Zeke have, formed in creativity and secrecy and the feeling of finally being understood, is completely authentic. The most compelling present-day scenes are when Frankie tries to articulate the events of that summer to her family. Of course, she doesn't know how to explain why she still puts up posters and constantly repeats that line to herself or why she's kept this all a secret for so long. It's easy to empathize with her; we've all struggled to confess things that we can't really justify, even to our loved ones...continued

Full Review (855 words)

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(Reviewed by Erin Lyndal Martin).

Media Reviews

Esquire
Full of compassion and gentle humor, this is a wise and winning novel about how youth haunts and defines us.

Vulture
It's the kind of book your cool English literature teacher would recommend when you showed an interest in writing, the type of coming-of-age story that would have been equally destined for a banned books list and a summer reading list.

Washington Post
This is a wildly funny, wonderfully sincere — and a little bit devastating — story of art, our limitless past, future nostalgia and all those perfectly imperfect ways we continually come of age. Kevin Wilson's books are so full of heart. They're utterly indelible.

Vogue
Though the book has an earnest heart, it's colored by Wilson's appealingly offbeat prose, so that even the most straightforward coming-of-age moments have a funky freshness.

Booklist (starred review)
Wilson has developed a story that is a precise capture of adolescence and of two vibrant teens whose everyday dilemmas, weaknesses, and triumphs are utterly endearing...Crisp dialog and [a] zipping story line.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The irrepressible Wilson presents a grunge-era fable about a pre-internet mass-hysteria incident and the alchemy of art...A warm, witty two-hander that sidesteps the clichés of art school and indie film and treats its free spirits with respect.

Publishers Weekly
[A] delightful story...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.

Reader Reviews

Cloggie Downunder

a marvellous coming-of-age tal
4.5?s “I had wanted people to care, to notice, but I hadn’t wanted them to put their own hands all over it, to try to claim it. But how do you stop something like that? You just tried to make more of it so you didn’t lose your claim to what was ...   Read More
Shelby K.

Personal and creative storytelling
I loved experiencing this story so much that I devoured it in a day. Very intimate look at many important themes wrapped up in a quick and immersive reading experience.
IbrahimAkpaka

An excellently written coming-of-age story!
The newest book by Kevin Wilson, NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO PANIC, is a beautifully written and compelling coming-of-age tale about two struggling, hardworking kids named Frankie and Zeke who, over the course of a summer, create art and grow into so much...   Read More
Cathryn Conroy

A Fun, Albeit Odd Book. The Story Drags in the Middle and Sputters to a Disappointing Ending
This short, coming-of-age book by Kevin Wilson begins with an imaginative and snappy plot…but then just starts to draaaaaaag out until it finally sputters to a disappointing ending. It's the summer of 1996. Frankie and Zeke are two 16-year-olds ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Street Artist Shepard Fairey

Print of Shepard Fairey's Andre the Giant Obey designIn Kevin Wilson's Now Is Not the Time to Panic, the main characters decide to anonymously make a piece of art and post it publicly. This idea is part of a larger street art aesthetic that encompasses everyone from unknown graffiti artists to international superstar Banksy. One of the most famous street artists, one who got his start with a mysterious image of his own, is 52-year-old Shepard Fairey.

The Charleston, South Carolina native loved skateboard culture and punk rock as a teenager. Around age 14, he began selling skateboards and t-shirts he'd decorated. On his website, Fairey explains why stickers, in particular, were so influential to him at the time: "I found sticker sightings an encouraging sign that there were more dedicated ...

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