Good Lord, I can’t believe how good this book is. I know you’re supposed to begin book reviews with subtlety and a nod to storytelling’s past and the long literary tradition that the book has managed to hook itself onto. But Nothing to See Here defies an entry like that because it’s wholly original. It’s also perfect ... I’m sure I’m supposed to wonder what the fire disease is a metaphor for: It’s something that makes children unsuitable for the public. Or it’s our shameful past? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. It’s so bonkers and works so well that it only occurred to me to wonder this while I was writing this review ... The star of the book is Lillian, the most interesting and gratifying narrator of a novel I’ve read in years...I’ve never seen a female character like this (though I’ve seen some wannabes). It was astonishing to read. It’s rare to find a narrator like this because Lillian isn’t someone who would ever narrate a book; she’d find telling her own story a stupid pursuit ... the book is also filled with great beauty ... an unassuming bombshell of a novel that appears to be about female friendship—and here I’m angry all over again that a man has given us the most subtle and poignant depiction of female friendship that I’ve read in a few years, Ferrante novels aside—but is actually about our responsibilities toward the people we care for and about. Wilson writes with such a light touch that it seems fairly impossible for the book to have a big emotional payoff. But there is, and that’s the brilliance of the novel—that it distracts you with these weirdo characters and mesmerizing and funny sentences and then hits you in a way you didn’t see coming. You’re laughing so hard you don’t even realize that you’ve suddenly caught fire.
There’s hardly a sentence in Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here that feels like anything you’ve read before; that’s how fresh his voice is, and how willfully, wonderfully bizarre the book’s plot ... Wilson unfurls all this from Lillian’s point of view: witty, confiding, breezily profane. And tender, too ... That the supernatural elements of Nothing feel so right is a testament to Wilson’s innate skill as a storyteller. But it’s the humanity in his words, and in All This, that stays: the unmistakable tenor of real life, too ludicrous not to be true.
... a giddily lunatic premise, one that author Kevin Wilson grounds with humor and deadpan matter-of-factness. Told in Lillian’s refreshingly unfiltered and a-touch-crude voice, the story makes a pair of spontaneously combusting children seem plausible ... Wilson’s observational humor is riotous in its specificity, his descriptions as generous as fistfuls of Halloween candy at the best house on the block ... Even when Lillian first sees Bessie catch fire, the writing dazzles as much as the girl ... But what dazzles most are the warmly rendered dynamics of an ad hoc, dysfunctional family that desperately wants to work.
... magical, revelatory ... Children who burst into flames seem like a pretty good metaphor for the standard-issue terrors of parenting, and Bessie and Roland’s affliction, while extreme, will feel familiar to anyone who has seen a child on the verge of a horrible tantrum ...Told in Lillian’s voice, the prose hums with humor ... Family is the great proving ground of character, and it’s the setting of the questions at the heart of Wilson’s fiction: what it means to belong, what we owe one another, how to forgive and keep loving, even amid inevitable hurts. In Nothing to See Here, these themes play out in a book as deceptively simple as a fable, as disturbing as a fairy tale.
Wilson scrapes away all the cloying sentimentality that so often sticks to young characters ... that’s the most wonderful aspect of Wilson’s story: It’s entirely true to life . . . except that now and then, the kids spontaneously combust ... Wilson understands the mixture of affection and embarrassment that runs through all loving families. His satire is always marbled with tenderness ... his most perfect novel. Paradoxically light and melancholy, it hews to the border of fantasy but stays in the land of realism ... you can sense the real heat radiating off these pages ... offers a brutal critique of American aristocrats and especially the distortion field around them that makes their selfishness look like duty to a higher cause ... Wilson is clearly writing from a point of deep sympathy ... This novel may seem slight and quirky, but don’t be fooled. There’s a lot to see here.
... funny and even eerily beautiful ... Wilson, whose novel is dedicated to fellow Tennesseean writer Ann Patchett, shares her interest in quirky, constructed families and the power of compassion, though his humor and predilection for the bizarre are darker ... In a book about damaged kids who literally burn with anger, it's ironic that I had a harder time swallowing Lillian's abiding loyalty to conniving, controlling Madison. But swirling around this dubious friendship, there's still plenty to entertain ... But it's the sweetness of this novel that will melt you, even when it ventures dangerously close to flaming schmaltz, and despite its somewhat predictable (but still satisfying) ending.
The premise is fantastical, but Wilson’s portrayal of these fire children conveys more emotional truth about life with a difficult or neurodivergent kid than any of those parenting guides ... Wilson also skewers the way the wealthy pay their way out of mistakes, keeping themselves insulated from consequences. In this funny and affecting novel, Wilson has introduced one outlandish element that exposes more truth than strict realism could
One of the most important functions of literature is to cheer you up when life is hard...When you need an escape from the tsuris, pick up Nothing to See Here, Kevin Wilson's deadpan, hilarious modern fairy tale complete with impoverished heroine, cruel princess and neglected children with magical powers ... The possibility of children bursting into flames doesn’t seem all that distant from the terrors of real-life parenting. Kids’ chaotic, unbounded emotions, their ability to hurt themselves and others, their propensity for wrecking the house — it’s a metaphor with legs ... You’ll close the covers with a smile.
... [Wilson's] most assured novel ... This over-the-top premise becomes entertaining and believable in the capable hands of Wilson who, if you have read his previous novels, is no stranger to absurd plots. He takes the most ridiculous storylines and grounds them in reality with an ample dose of matter-of-factness and sentimentality ... The oddly humorous narrative is peppered with such random, laugh-out-loud gems that keeps the writing consistently engaging ... While Lillian’s indictment of Madison’s lifestyle is entertaining to read, Wilson is careful to depict Madison as more than just a Stepford Wife ... Descriptions are by turns elegantly precise and crisp ... This novel also portrays one of the realest and most layered portraits of female friendship I have read in a while, without resorting to melodrama or cheap thrills. The power dynamic, attraction and petty nastiness that is part and parcel of friendship is touched upon tenderly ... As big-hearted as it is bizarre, Nothing to See Here is a charming story about people who do not fit into conventional boxes forging unlikely bonds and finding their place in the world. This novel will surely warm the cockles of your heart!
Wilson’s strange tale kept me turning page after page, enthralled by the relationships, the characters, and the magical elements of the story ... Wilson’s writing is smart and funny, and he’s able to seamlessly jump from whimsy to sadness to humor with such ease. The novel leans into its own absurdity quite well, the situational comedy of it all coming through in the narration ... Lillian’s voice is straightforward and oftentimes darkly funny ... As Lillian learns how to be a mother, Wilson shows us that families can form in a variety of ways. While the ending of the novel comes as no surprise, the story itself is moving and compelling, and I found myself wanting nothing but the best for Lillian and her fire children. Wilson keeps readers engaged and captivated, and he builds a world that we accept and believe without question. Nothing to See Here is a highly entertaining and witty novel with plenty of humor and heart.
... Wilson doesn’t dwell on the science of human combustion. Instead, he uses the phenomenon as a clever metaphor for human behavior, especially as it relates to a seemingly privileged family ... Parts of the novel go on too long, but Nothing to See Here poignantly uses its high concept to make a larger point: Embarrassing behavior often stems from a person’s emotions and anxieties. The key is to address them before an easily resolved problem becomes a major conflagration.
... a good set-up, fraught with unresolved emotions and promising undertones for future amplification ... Lillian is impressively, perhaps improbably well-informed about her motivations. Despite the antic humor and bizarre details that give Wilson’s fiction a postmodern spin, he is at heart a traditional novelist who carefully connects plot point A to plot point B on his way to a carefully worked-out resolution ... Lillian’s bond with the twins is never quite as interesting, though Wilson portrays it with a pleasing blend of tartness and tenderness, simply because Madison is by far the novel’s most interesting character ... a satisfying ending, steeped in a very human mix of ambivalence and optimism. Wilson’s ability to capture such tangled sentiments makes him a thoroughly engaging and appealing writer.
Despite a sense of head-shaking impossibility, Wilson somehow manages to make his make-believe believable--in between the inappropriate laughing and bittersweet empathizing ... When it comes to unconventional families, Wilson again proves himself a master of heartstring-tugging, drop-jaw shocking, guffaw-inducing, (can't resist) highly combustible entertainment.
Wilson’s words in creating this world, and the multiple levels of relationships within it, are succinct and vivid. They are also wonderfully funny ... Lillian’s voice and observations are touching and delicious ... While Lillian stands out, even the secondary characters in Nothing to See Here are given full due. This adds so much to the novel’s complete ability to absorb the reader in the very high stakes of this strange situation, one that carries a constant, terrifyingly ominous undertone of what on earth will happen to these poor children ... This is a story that is so absorbing and told so briskly it can be devoured in one or two lengthy sittings. It is well worth clearing one’s schedule to do so.
... a love letter to the weirdness and difficulties of children and of parenting, with or without spontaneous human combustion. The fire is a lovely and flexible metaphor for childhood—the pain, joy, and mania of it—as vital, beautiful, and terrifying as kids themselves can be. Lillian tells the story in an easy, engaging voice, cynical and funny without being caustic. Like the author’s The Family Fang, this is another story of a family that is as delightfully bizarre as it is heartfelt and true ... Wilson further cements himself as a chronicler of peculiar families while reminding us that, then again, aren’t they all?
... electrifyingly bizarre ... as unnerving as his recent short story collection, Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine (2018) ... The resolution may seem a bit pat. Regardless, Nothing To See Here proves that money, privilege, and politics don’t always outweigh old-fashioned values. Though there is a certain Wilson trademark of quirkiness and a dark sense of humor, it finally leads to revealing the new normal in contemporary parenting.
Lillian tells the story, revealing immediately that she’s another of Wilson’s normal extraordinary protagonists ... She fills the book with her wry humor and large, embracing heart as she ponders the love of friendship and the love of family and then acts on what she discovers.
Wilson turns a bizarre premise into a beguiling novel about unexpected motherhood ... Lillian’s deadpan observations zip from funny to heartbreaking while her hesitancy and messy love satisfyingly contrasts with Madison’s raw drive for power and tightly controlled affection. Wilson captures the wrenching emotions of caring for children in this exceptional, and exceptionally hilarious, novel.
Wilson is a remarkable writer for many different reasons ... One of his greatest strengths is the ability to craft an everyday family drama and inject it with one odd element that turns the story on its head. He’s done it again here ... The book’s denouement is a bit predictable, but Lillian develops into an engaging parental proxy in Wilson’s latest whimsical exploration of family ... A funny and touching fable about love for kids, even the ones on fire.