A mere shoot of a lad (is he old enough to shave?), teenage writer Nick McDonell proves a preternaturally accomplished author with his debut novel, Twelve. Set in New York City, the book is narrated with chilling objectivity by White Mike, a 17-year-old drug dealer, and centers around his wealthy clientele. Chris, Hunter and Laura are among his customers—self-indulgent prep school students whose parents depart during Christmas vacation, leaving them to their own devices. With their accelerated lifestyles, fixation on big-name brands and use of modern slang, McDonell's characters come at the reader in a hallucinatory rush of contemporary culture. These kids live fast and—yes—die young. Energetic and episodic, brimming with tension, the narrative is a searing portrait of the ultra-privileged: rich kids who have climbed so high, there's nowhere to go but down. McDonell, who is only 18, writes with a worldliness and wisdom that exceed his years.

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