Does any one else think that our current generation should have been flagged years ago as “Generation N?” We seem to love to tap into a shared nostalgia drip. We freaked when they brought nineties’ children shows back for a late-night block just for us 20-something’s who keep vampire hours. We sport Shel Silverstein tattoos and love Neil Gaiman for writing children’s books for adults. Like any other emblems of an era, our penchant for our childhood’s cultural monuments is begging for a satire. Tony McMillen’s debut novel, Nefarious Twit, will hold up a mirror to all the nostalgia junkies out there while offering a looking glass into tripping on psychedelic Ritalin, murder, and mythology.
Caught your interest? How about the novels more empathetic depiction of the relationship between brother and brother? Half-brothers Rick and Lou Lime are what the kids from the neighborhoods of Hey Arnold or Ed, Edd, and Eddy would be like if they grew up but still played by the same rules as they did when they were animated school children. They break in to their middle school, destroy library books, and feed themselves the same drugs as their mother did when they were eight. Rick is the son of Nefarious Twit, famous author of a beloved children book and an infamous adult novel, and spends a good part of the book sneering at his fellow grown-ups who cling to the ideals of a children’s book that they don’t actually practice or understand.
Both of Twit’s stories tell a similar tale of a boy/man who abandons his family to pursue a life of happy hopeless wandering. Not surprisingly, Twit ditches his budding family and disappears, never to publish another word. When we first meet Rick, he’s nursing a serious addiction to a fictionalized Ritalin while harboring a serious Boy-Named- Sue- level grudge against the man who abandoned his family and drove his mother to suicide. After her death, he decides to track down Twit with his “there’s-always-been-something-wrong-with-him-” uncontrollable brother and murder him. Thus starts our buddy road-trip movie that is as American as apple pie.
The best parts in the book by far are those that follow the boys down the rabbit hole on one of their drug-induced hallucinations. Being hitched to Lou Lime, Rick’s wretched and tragically unstable brother, is like existing as a twisted voyeur, unable to look away from a violent and ultimately weirdly satisfying demise. Not only visually wonderful and inventive, Nefarious Twit will move you through uncomfortable places like seedy border towns and stripteases inspired by the crucifixion to conversations with hallucinated inter-dimensional beings. It’s a pretty wild ride.
Where the novel fails, unfortunately, is in its writing style. The narration taps into Lemony Snicket-esque banter, which makes sense given how the novel delves in to our adult habit of romanticizing childhood delights, but generally falls short of clever and comes off as gimmicky. In contrast, the illustrations (I’ve posted a few of them in this review) that are scattered here and there throughout the book, do a much better job of calling a reader back to iconic children’s stories and I only wish that there had been more.
Another blatant problem with Nefarious Twit ( that will likely turn readers off) is in the crafting of the female supporting and main characters. McMillen doesn’t bother to grace any of them with a name let alone a fleshed-out and believable personality. These women, like the one dubbed “Death/Mex” (she’s gothic and Mexican. Yikes, McMillen), are all described as pretty…and that’s about it. Oh, except that they all seem to keep throwing themselves at the pathetic and undesirable Lime boys. Our main female character-type-thing who shares in the majority of the adventure with the Limes is Nixon. Is that her real name? Do I care? Not really. Because while her mysterious name is strangely stressed as important in the narrative, her backstory, motives, and feelings are really not. She’s not an actualized person and we have to endure her presence for most of the book, but I know what her tits look like in detail so that’s cool I guess. McMillen creates yet another boring stock manic pixie dream girl character and in doing so will and should bore a lot of readers.
As a first effort, Nefarious Twit shows some promise. It is well plotted and accomplishes a lot in a short number of pages. If the same care had been giving to character development and a less forced approach, I think McMillen could have produced something more memorable. Still, I would check out his next project.