Four years ago, I attended Library Journal’s Day of Dialog and Book Expo in New York. For me, it was like attending the Academy Awards. I heard a wonderful panel of authors, including Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Strout. One other author on the panel stood out to me: Kevin Wilson. I knew that he had written the novel The Family Fang, because I liked its cover, though I had not read it. That year, Wilson was there to promote his novel, Nothing to See Here. He talked about having Tourette syndrome, his love and concern for his young sons and how this same concern weaves its way into his fiction. I liked him, and I liked his novel.
Recently, I bought Wilson’s latest book, Now Is Not the Time to Panic. Set during the summer of 1996, the novel is the story of the friendship of Frances “Frankie” Budge and Zeke Brown. They are two awkward and talented teenagers who meet at the Coalfield, Tennessee, public pool. Frankie is 16 and wants to be a writer. Zeke is from Memphis and is spending the summer with his mother at his grandmother’s house. He wants to be an artist. They make a poster. With the power of a stolen copy machine, they anonymously plaster the poster on the bulletin boards and empty walls of Coalfield. How the community interprets the poster is something that Frankie and Zeke learn that they cannot control.
What Wilson explores in this beautifully crafted story is what art is, and the responsibilities the creator has to an audience if any. It’s a thought-provoking read.
Contributed by Maureen Millea Smith, a retired librarian and a Minnesota Book Award–winning novelist. You can find her books at maureenmilleasmith.com.