I wrote a post not so long ago about my dislike for LitFic, and how, although I don’t enjoy it, I still pick one up from time to time. It’s very rare that one of these randomly selected LitFic stories comes through on the promise of the book cover, but it happened this week.
Some time ago, I put a hold on this book – “Now is not the time to panic” by Kevin Wilson. I don’t remember now WHY I did – maybe it was the plot synopsis, maybe it was just the title. Anyway, the book finally arrived and I found myself reading the whole thing in one night. (It’s just 237 pages, so why split it up?)
The premise of the story is weird, but great. The protagonist, Frankie, is the youngest child of her family, having three older brothers who are triplets. They’re being brought up by a single mom, and this summer Frankie is sixteen and pretty much left to her own devices. A new kid has moved to town temporarily, and they make a wary friendship. They decide to spend the summer together making art – Frankie is a writer, and Zeke is an artist. Together they design a weird poster, with the tagline
“The Edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us.”
They put up the posters in secret, making copies with a Xerox machine that is in Frankie’s garage. They paper the town, and soon people are discussing the posters – are they for a band? A cult? A movie? Then a couple of teens who were out late use the line as an excuse – they were captured, they say, by a gang claiming to be “the fugitives”. From then on, things turn bad as the town goes on the alert.
Meanwhile, in the present day, adult Frankie is contacted by a journalist who believes Frankie was responsible for the posters, which in turn caused the “Coalfield Panic of 1996”. Frankie has never admitted her part in things to anyone – should she confess now?
So, look, you know I like happy endings, and I get annoyed by books that set up a story and then leave it hanging. But this was a gripping story, and I was hungry to finish it. When the story closes, I was happy with where it stopped. LitFic CAN be done right, and this book is the proof.