What to Read Next (No. 237): The Kids Are . . . On Fire
Featuring Kevin Wilson's "Nothing to See Here" and Stephen King's "Firestarter"
Happy Friday, readers!
In the last month I’ve managed to read a couple books about a very specific fictional phenomenon: children with pyrokinetic abilities. It certainly wasn’t planned, and although they were very different books, I encountered some fun similarities about the unique qualities of children and what it’s like being a caregiver of those gifts.
Firestarter continued my Stephen King project; Nothing to See Here has been on my list for quite a while and I finally succumbed to my reading Whims and grabbed it from the library.
Let’s jump right in!
P.S. As always, I’d love to hear what you’re reading and enjoying as we get enter the final month of summer.
Firestarter by Stephen King
My Stephen King project is chugging right along (though I haven’t updated StephenKingReader.com for a while). I’ve gone through all of King’s work from the ‘70s, which I intend to rank here soon, and have moved onto the ‘80s.
In Firestarter, published in 1980, King revisits a couple familiar themes — psychic abilities and children protagonists, primarily — but builds out the world and characters even more than in the likes of Carrie, The Shining, or The Long Walk.
As part of a government experiment gone wrong, Andy and Vicky are accidentally given some powers. They weren’t supposed to get married, but they did, and produced a little girl who possessed even more extraordinary powers: little Charlie could make fire.
By the time Charlie is 8 years old, her and Andy are on the run from The Shop — the clandestine government agency that perpetrated the experiment and wants to harness Charlie’s gift for less-than-savory purposes.
I really enjoyed the characters and the story. Charlie is an absolute delight and Mr. Rainbird is among King’s most memorable villains so far.
If you’re unsure of Stephen King, this is a great book to read. It’s less horror than sci-fi thriller — there’s definitely some violence, but most of it comes at the end and it’s not nearly as disturbing as some of King’s work.
I’d actually love to see more of Charlie’s story — just as Danny from The Shining got a sequel in Doctor Sleep. Maybe someday.
Overall, King’s 1980s started off strong with Firestarter. Highly recommended.
RMB Rating (out of 5): 4.5
Newly Published Books On My Radar
Between Us: How Cultures Create Emotions by Batja Mesquita — I’m always intrigued by behavioral science and the premise of this one seems especially interesting.
After the Ivory Tower Falls by Will Bunch — “the epic untold story of college—the great political and cultural fault line of American life”; sounds great to me.
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
In one of the more unique plot lines I’ve seen in recent years (particularly in regards to contemporary literary fiction), Kevin Wilson explores what would happen to two kids who actually light on fire when they get too worked up (the fire, mysteriously, does not harm the children).
It’s a metaphor that parents and caregivers can immediately relate to: when a kid is stuck in a tantrum, it can intensely feel like either you or them will spontaneously combust.
So as a thought experiment, it’s both fun and fascinating. How would caring for them work? It would entail fireproof clothes and gels, for sure, but also finding the right person to calm the fire — a person who could see their condition less as a defect and more as just a fact of life.
Lillian might just be that person. She’s young-ish, but failing to launch, and through a college connection she gets a shot at this nannying gig.
She’s in over her head, of course, but surprises herself by doing a pretty good job of handling the overheated twins. Lillian finds a protectiveness and natural tenderness inside of her that she didn’t think existed.
In a number of ways, Nothing to See Here reminded me of Kiley Reid’s phenomenal Such a Fun Age (read my review here). I liked that one better, but the characters and characterizations felt pretty similar — in a good way.
Overall, I quite enjoyed Nothing to See Here. It’s funny, tender, thought-provoking, and entertaining. I can happily recommend this one for nearly all types of readers.
RMB Rating (out of 5): 4
That’s all for me this week. Thanks so much for the time and inbox space — I deeply appreciate it!