Debut novel penned by a 17-year-old private high-school student in Manhattan.
If you liked Harmony Korine’s film Kids, you’ll definitely be into McDonell’s story. Set entirely in New York, it follows the closely linked but vastly different worlds of Harlem and the Upper East Side, where the accidents of birth and geography create problems that few outsiders might guess at. The central character is White Mike, a very bright but alienated prep-school kid who has dropped out to become a drug dealer. Mike has never so much as tried marijuana himself, but he likes the freedom drug money brings him, and he has a very ready market among his old classmates—a weird bunch indeed. There’s Charlie, who pawns his mother’s jewelry to buy guns. And Jessica, a debutante who trades sex for drugs. Claude is into guns, too, and it seems that most of the rich kids of Park Avenue have gangsta’ fever: The coolest among them speak in black slang and like to hang out in neighborhoods way uptown even when they don’t need to score spliff. Hunter McCullough, for example, comes up to Harlem with White Mike to shoot hoops at a gym called the Rec—but one night he gets into a fight with a kid from the projects named Nana. Too bad for him, too, because when Nana and Charlie are found dead one night on 117th Street, the cops arrest Hunter (who still has Nana’s bloodstains on his clothes). White Mike, whose mother died of breast cancer not long before all this, is pretty demoralized no matter how you look at him, but he has enough heart left to figure out that Hunter’s not the man. But, like, what can you do when everything’s so wickedly messed up?
Not bad for a by-now 18-year-old, but still far from good: McDonell should stay in school a few more years.