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Nothing to See Here

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Kevin Wilson’s best book yet—a moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning in her life when she begins caring for two children with remarkable and disturbing abilities

Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help.

Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it’s the truth.

Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other—and stay cool—while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her—urgently and fiercely. Couldn’t this be the start of the amazing life she’d always hoped for?

With white-hot wit and a big, tender heart, Kevin Wilson has written his best book yet—a most unusual story of parental love.

288 pages, ebook

First published October 29, 2019

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About the author

Kevin Wilson

22 books2,757 followers
Kevin Wilson is the author of two collections, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth (Ecco/Harper Perennial, 2009), which received an Alex Award from the American Library Association and the Shirley Jackson Award, and Baby You’re Gonna Be Mine (Ecco, 2018), and three novels, The Family Fang (Ecco, 2011), Perfect Little World (Ecco, 2017) and Nothing to See Here (Ecco, 2019), a New York Times bestseller and a Read with Jenna book club selection.
His new novel, Now is Not the Time to Panic, will be published by Ecco in November of 2022.
His fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, Southern Review, One Story, A Public Space, and elsewhere, and has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2020 and 2021, as well as The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2012. He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the KHN Center for the Arts. He lives in Sewanee, Tennessee, with his wife, the poet Leigh Anne Couch, and his sons, Griff and Patch, where he is an Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of the South.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 19,745 reviews
Profile Image for Kat.
256 reviews78.6k followers
July 12, 2022
quirky and wholesome story about loneliness, family, and some kids who catch fire (literally) (the cover is not a metaphor) i have no substantial thoughts about this book but it rocked my shit.
Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
770 reviews12.1k followers
January 23, 2020
Quirky and Heartwarming

Nothing to See Here is about two small children who have the power to spontaneously combust. Yup. Sounds crazy, but Kevin Wilson pulls it off!


The premise is a little odd, but it lured me in and works to examine an undercurrent of themes, including class divisions, the dynamics of friendship, otherness, loneliness, and the power of love.

I love the tone of Nothing to See Here--narrated by Lillian (the caregiver of the fire children), it's dark, emotional, and filled with humor. Her voice was riveting and made me want to keep reading. This could have easily been a hot mess, but Lillian’s voice keeps the narrative in check and adds a layer of depth and intelligence to the odd storyline.

This is a quick and addictive read. If I didn’t have to go to work, I could have easily knocked this out in a day. Roland and Bessie, the fire children, are fascinating. They can cause harm but are really sweet and endearing children who have been deeply hurt by those who are supposed to love them. I wanted more of them!. I especially loved Bessie’s character and enjoyed seeing her relationship develop with Lillian.

This book left me feeling warm and fuzzy. Its is a unique read with a strong voice. The premise might be a little too weird for some, but if you are willing to approach this book with an open mind, it’s well worth the read.
Profile Image for Yun.
505 reviews18k followers
March 25, 2022
Every once in a while, I come across a book that seems to be exactly what I would enjoy, but for some reason, I just don't connect with it. And unfortunately, Nothing to See Here falls squarely in that camp.

When Lillian's best friend from her school days calls on her for help, she immediately jumps at the chance. When she arrives at Madison's house, she learns that her friend wants her to take care of her two stepchildren, who have the unfortunate ability of bursting into flames whenever they're upset. What at first seems like an impossible task soon brightens Lillian's life, and she realizes that she and the children are exactly what each other needs.

On the surface, this is exactly one of those quirky, heartwarming, satirical books that should be loads of fun to read. The storyline with those fire children is unique, and Lillian is a main character you can cheer for. Both she and the children have been let down by life too many times, and to watch their journey of discovering each other is lovely.

And yet, this book fell a bit flat to me. The characters came across as one-dimensional, where each person was reduced to just the one thing they wanted. The humor and the cursing came across as more flippant than funny. And the resolution felt rushed and sappy.

So many other readers loved this, so I'm just going to chalk up my indifference to me being the wrong reader for this book.
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
November 20, 2019
“This is weird, Madison. You want me to raise your husband’s fire children.”

i won this through the gr giveaways but i didn’t read it right away—choosing instead to read ARCs of books that were coming out before this one, then delaying it further for my horror-only october bookplan. i thought i had plenty of time before it pubbed because i saw this on the side of the ARC:



and misunderstood it to mean it was pubbing on the 19th of november instead of in november 2019. which i now realize is a monday—wait, no it's not but ANYWAY THE POINT IS i put off reading it and the book came out before i began reading it and the joke’s on me because i liked this so much more than most of the books i read while i wasn’t reading this one.

THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD

before this, i’d only read one other book by him, Perfect Little World. i liked it fine, with some reservations, which was probably another reason i dragged my feet in favor of books i thought would be more slam-dunks in my heart.

but this one—good lord, i couldn’t read it fast enough; it grabbed me right from the start, and i never put it down without feeling a little tug of regret that i had to go do other things. i am someone who folds over pages in my books when lines are pleasing or memorable, and i was already a-folding by page two. all of it—the characters, the story, the conflict, it is brisk and funny and warm and wise and heartpunchy; it’s a perfect book about imperfect people; of love and family and responsibility, and you better believe i cried. <— and that? that is a thing that just doesn’t happen.

i’d been drawn to this one initially because spontaneous human combustion is rad, even if this is not quite SHC, because the h’s that are c-ing spontaneously are physically unharmed by the experience; they’re just two little kids who burst into flames when they have temper tantrums.

"How are they still alive?" I asked.

"It doesn't hurt them at all," she said, shrugging to highlight how dumbfounded she was. "They just get really red, like a bad sunburn, but they're not hurt."

"What about their clothes?" I asked.

"I'm still figuring this out, Lillian," she said. "I guess their clothes burn off."

"So they're just these naked kids on fire?"

"I think so. So you can understand why we're worried."


which is all very striking an image, but it is so much more than the novelty of that situation. quick aside: i was at the bookstore the other day and this little girl was just LOSING HER MIND and through all the shrieking and wailing and snot and tears, all i could think was “welp, at least she isn’t on fire.”

the “children on fire” angle is the hook, but at its heart, it is about lillian—a woman trapped in the smallness of her own life after her chance to rise up out of her working-poor upbringing was stolen from her by the betrayal of a friend. as a teenager, lillian worked her ass off to win a scholarship to an elite boarding school where she met her roommate madison billings—a wealthy girl with just as much weirdness to her as lillian. the two became close friends and teammates—basketball phenoms who were inseparable until madison got into trouble, her father paid off lillian’s mother for lillian to take the fall, and lillian was expelled and sent back to her hometown in disgrace. the bribe money—meant to be put aside for lillian's college tuition—was instead quickly spent by her mother on her own comforts. without the challenges and opportunities of the rich-kid school, without the possibility of a college education, lillian just sorta sunk into herself and stopped trying.

Everything was so easy, and nobody cared, and I lost interest…I started to care less about the future. I cared more about making the present tolerable. And time passed. And that was my life.


fifteen years later, lillian is twenty-eight years old and still right where she started: she's been living in her mother’s attic, plodding through long aimless years of smoking pot, living paycheck to paycheck, defeated and angry but still in madison’s thrall; maintaining a periodic correspondence-based friendship with her—madison’s letters filled with tales of one cushioned success after another; the ease of wealth enabling a charmed life only getting more charmed as she grows older.

when madison writes to lillian, asking for her help, lillian doesn’t hesitate: I tried to think of a time when I hadn’t done what Madison had asked me to do. That time did not exist.

what madison needs from lillian is her loyalty and discretion; to take care of—and keep out of sight—her husband’s children from a previous marriage; ten-year-old twins bessie and roland who have just lost their mother and are afflicted with this unseemly fiery rage. madison’s senator husband jasper is in the running for secretary of state and flaming children would disrupt their picture-perfect family image: a beautiful, wealthy couple with a young son of their own who doesn’t burst into flames.

despite having zero training or experience with children, much less with “fire children,” lillian accepts the position and becomes their governess and sorta-jailor, which puts her once more in madison’s charismatic orbit—living on the grounds of their sprawling estate in tennessee, doing her best to keep the twins calm, extinguishing them when necessary, and sensing in them kindred spirits, an affinity unexpectedly kindling (heh) her unexplored maternal instincts.

Maybe that’s what children were, a desperate need that opened you up even if you didn’t want it.

the children have been uprooted and are full of raw emotional pain; grieving their mother, resentful of their sudden displacement, their long-absent father and his pretty young wife, their pampered half-brother, and this stranger being paid to care for them. the situation is not ideal, but the three soon find their footing and begin to form their own outsider version of a family, their trust built through honesty and candor, and lillian’s transition from reluctant foster parent into fierce mother bear is beautifully written.

They were me, unloved...and I was going to make sure that they got what they needed. They would scratch and kick me, and I was going to scratch and kick anyone who tried to touch them.


i feel like i could go on and on about this book, typing out lines from the oh-so-many folded-over pages, and all the ways in which lillian’s situation—of squandered promise and self-disgust; feeling defeated and giving up, the anger, frustration, and shame of poverty—was so horribly relatable to me as i was reading it that i just wanted to howl.

Because I kept fucking up, because it seemed so hard not to fuck up, I lived a life where I had less than what I desired. So instead of wanting more, sometimes I just made myself want even less. Sometimes I made myself believe that I wanted nothing, not even food or air. And if I wanted nothing, I’d just turn into a ghost. And that would be the end of it.

And there were these two kids, and they burst into flames.

And I had known them for less than a week; I didn’t know them at all. And I wanted to burst into flames, too. I thought, How wonderful would it be to have everyone stand at a respectful distance?


this.

the book simply crackles. it is all flames and fire and emotional damage but it is also hope and purpose and human connection, and even though i am not typically an emotional reader, this one got me right in the feels. i'm sorry i didn't read it the moment it fell into my little hands, but i'm extremely glad i won a copy, because i probably wouldn't have read it anytime soon without the guilt-prod i feel every time i win or accept a free book. maybe this glowing review will be your prod. if not, maybe this overlong quote'll do it, the single best description of the oncreep of love i have ever read:

Sometimes, when the kids were invested in something, when they didn’t look entirely blasted by how shitty their lives had been, I’d try to truly look at them. Of course, they both had those bright green eyes, like you’d see on the cover of a bad fantasy novel where the hero can turn into some kind of bird of prey. But they were not attractive children, the rest of their faces soft and undefined. They looked ratty. I hadn’t even tried to fix their cult haircuts. I feared that fixing them would only make the kids more plain. They had round little bellies, way past the point when you’d expect a kid to lose it. Their teeth were just crooked enough that you could tell they hadn’t been handled with care. And yet. And yet.

When Bessie managed to get the layup to bank perfectly off the backboard, her eyes got crazy; she started vibrating. When Roland watched you do anything, even open a can of peaches, he looked like he was cheering you on at mile marker nineteen of your marathon. When Roland put his fingers in my mouth in the middle of the night, when Bessie kicked me in the liver and made me startle awake, I did not hate them. No matter what happened after this, when the kids moved into the mansion with Jasper and Madison and Timothy, no one would ever think that they were really a part of that immaculate family. They would always, kind of, belong to me. I had never wanted kids, because I had never wanted a man to give me a kid. The thought of it, gross; the expectation of it. But if a hole in the sky opened up and two weird children fell to earth, smashing into the ground like asteroids, then that was something I could care for. If it gleamed like it was radiating danger, I’d hold it. I would.




*******************************************

i missed out on this at BEA, but i won it through goodreads - hooray!



and it came with a squishy flame-shaped stress thingie.



i feel seen.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,065 reviews38.1k followers
October 22, 2021
Surprising, entertaining, emotional, original!

Dysfunctional family dynamics, political ambitions, fire-starter kids seem like little Drew Barrymore’s incarnations, not reciprocated, quirky best friend a.k.a nanny’s surprising connection with them, finding her new life purpose.

This book is definitely different fiction you’ve lately read. Lillian doesn’t come from money. She needs to work so hard to deserve a place and prove her value in the society.

She has no father and a problematic, selfish mother with lots of boyfriends. When she finally gets her scholarship to have a chance for better education at the boarding school, she thinks her luck has changed. She befriends rich, awkward roommate Madison but as soon as her friend gets into trouble with drugs, Madison’s parents offer to bribe her to take the blame. And of course Lillian’s mother accepts the offer, taking the money, causing her daughter get expelled from the school.

After the incident Lillian stops fighting and living her life without any aim, dream or future plans, living at the small room at her mother’s house. But her life changes again when her old best friend (now she is married with US senator, having the benefits of luxurious, wealthy life) comes with a job offer. She wants her to be the governess of her step kids who recently lost their mothers and they will move to live their mansion. ( Of course they will live separated at the guest house with their future nanny) But yes, there is a little problem about the kids. They can be violent, biting and attacking people. But no! That’s not the only people. Yes, they’re suffering from trauma because they were with their mother when she committed suicide. They also PUT EBERYTHING INTO FIRE while they’re singing “Disco Inferno”

And guess what Lillian accepts the offer because she doesn’t have any better thing to do. She needs a separate place, she needs money, she has to get away from her shitty room and her own mother’s shitty attitudes but mostly she accepts it because she wants to reunite with her friend and spend more time with her.

But instead of reconnecting with her friend, she sees different face of her and realized the facts and dynamics about their long distance friendship (some kind of pen-friendship) and she connects with those quirky but neglected, innocent children. As soon as they also start to form a deep friendship with her, Lillian’s life will never be the same because their parents are so adamant to send them to the boarding school for getting them out of their way to follow the political carrier they planned meticulously.

So Lillian needs to make a big decision which will affect both her life and the children’s.

The final twist of the book made me smile and entertain a lot. Seeing the hypocrisy, ambition, selfishness of the characters and putting their lives at first made me love Lillian more. Maybe she seems like a loser without anything she fights for but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t care anything or she doesn’t have enough capacity to discover and develop her skills. I liked her and I liked those firefly kids so much.

I read this story at one sit and I couldn’t put it down, skipping the meals ( Thankfully at Christmas day, I ate for entire week so it didn’t affect me as I expected.) It’s one of the unique, smart, interesting, moving, powerful readings of the year and I absolutely, highly recommend it.

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Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,681 followers
October 28, 2020
Do you need your heart-strings pulled but you REALLY want them pulled in the weirdest way? Then Nothing to See Here is the book for you.

It is a story of friendship.
It is a story of family.
It is a story of politics.
It is a story of abandonment.
It is a story of growing up.
It is a story of self-discovery.
It is a story of karma.
It is a story of kids who catch on fire.

*sings* One of these things is not like the other . . .

So, how does that last item on this list fit in with all the others. I can’t tell you, you will have to read it to find out! But, let’s just say that it does make sense when you throw them all together.

This was another book that was a Couch Time listen for my wife and me. For those not familiar, we frequently listen to audiobooks together in the evening after the kids go to bed. When this one finished, we both looked at each other and my wife said “Well, that was weird!” Yes, yes it was . . . but we both liked it very much.

The characters and the story were interesting and quirky. Everything develops nicely and there is even some come-uppance in the end that might make you cheer. Marin Ireland was the narrator and we both really liked her narration of Anxious People. We were excited to hear her voice again and I am pleased to report she did another great job.

A great book with a great narration – worth checking out if you like (or don’t mind) really unconventional plot points. I see that some place this book in the Magical Realism category, and I think that is appropriate. Give it a shot – just be sure to have a fire extinguisher nearby (just in case!)
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,033 reviews2,565 followers
March 13, 2021
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson (Author), Marin Ireland (Narrator)

It was a bit hard to get my head around this book because it's about ten year old twins that will burst into flames when they are stressed. Since they aren't harmed when this happens, it can be sort of funny to think about this situation and how adults can make it work, make combustible children fit into everyday life. And that's the sad part...that the wealthy father of these children dealt with them by paying to have them kept out of sight, out of mind, out of the press. But their mother, who is also shunted off to the sidelines, can't deal with life and now she's out of the picture.
 
Several years earlier wealthy fourteen year old Madison and poor scholarship student Lillian are attending the same prestigious boarding school. Finally Lillian has earned a chance to dig herself out of her going nowhere life by working hard enough to earn her scholarship, allowing the opening to keep on moving up in life. Nothing can stop her now. But when Madison is caught with drugs in her desk, Madison's father pays Lillian's mom to say that the drugs belong to Lillian, causing Lillian to be expelled from the school through no fault of her own. 

Years later, Lillian is stocking at a grocery store and Madison is married to Senator Roberts, the father of Bessie and Roland. Now that their mother has died, Madison begs Lillian to once again, save her hide, by taking on the job of raising these combustible children long enough for Senator Roberts to take over the job of Secretary of State. 

There is so much more to the story than just the surface combustible children problem. Parents have a responsibility to be there for their children. Lillian's mom has never been there for her and Bessie and Roland's dad and stepmom aren't there for them. And here is Lillian, who has no idea how to parent because she's never had a functional parent, taking on the job of being everything to these two struggling, lonely, scared, dysfunctional children. I won't go into the details of the things that happen but Lillian steps up to the plate and makes choices that put the children first and I'm team Lillian now and forever. 

Bessie and Roland are so fragile and need love and stability, things that Lillian never had. I really feel in love with the twins and with Lillian, abrasive as she can be. I feel like there are so many messages that can be taken from this story but the main one is that you can choose to love and cherish and choosing to do so gives you something that no money can ever buy. 

Published October 29th 2019
Profile Image for JanB .
1,113 reviews2,147 followers
December 19, 2019
4.5
It takes a lot of skill for an author to write a book about children bursting into flames and do it in a way that makes it not only believable, but endearing. I absolutely loved this quirky, funny, and sweet story.

Lillian hears from Madison, her old friend and roommate, asking for a favor. The two have a checkered history, with Madison being blessed with beauty and wealth, while Lillian, having neither, does Madison’s bidding, getting nothing in return. This time the favor is asking Lillian to be a governess to her husband Jasper’s 10-year-old twins, Roland and Bessie. The one tiny problem? The children have a tendency to erupt into flames. The children’s unusual tendency could derail Jasper’s political aspirations so Lillian’s job is to keep them out of sight and out of trouble.

Wickedly funny and heartwarming, I fell in love with Bessie and Roland. Anyone who has children can agree that bursting into flames is an excellent metaphor to describe what happens when children become overwhelmed by strong emotions.

I felt for these children and for Lillian. All three have been damaged by life and what they build together is utterly charming. Lillian is a refreshing character and I loved the way she interacted with the children. She sees something of herself in them. I loved her voice and self-deprecating demeanor. She needs the children as much as they need her.

I found the first 25% a bit slow but once the children appear the story took off. There’s much to say here about family, money, power, friendship, and politics but the themes were delivered with a lot of humor and heart. This was a fun read with substance, one Marialyce and I enjoyed.

Highly recommended!

A caveat: If you are offended by the f-bomb be aware that according to a kindle search, it’s dropped 211 times in 272 pages. I felt it was so overused it became tiresome. But yet. These characters wormed their way into my heart in a way I won’t soon forget.

• I received an e-galley from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
• For our duo reviews of this book and others please visit https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...
Profile Image for Robin.
473 reviews2,487 followers
February 11, 2020
This book was a freaking balm on my soul. You have to understand, I have been completely SWAMPED in the waters of Moby Dick and the meandering ramblings of Midnight's Children - I know... WHAT WAS I THINKING?? But this book, folks, this book is short, (darkly) funny, and easily holds your interest. There are no dissertations on whaling to be found here, or a dizzyingly long character list. Never, at any point, did a hopelessness descend on me, or existential questions assault me (will I ever finish this? will I DIE before I finish this? does it matter?). There's no (poorly hidden) homoeroticism here, no fetishizing of noses, no Shakespearian language, no high-faluting themes either.

Now, if you think that I liked this book simply on the basis that it is NOT Moby Dick or some highly-lauded torture exercise written by Salman Rushdie... well, you'd be wrong. But I have to admit, it probably gets an extra half-star simply because it acted as a life-raft in my reading world, that it buoyed me back to the surface. So, thank you, Kevin Wilson, whoever you are.

While it has a weird premise (10 year old twins who spontaneously combust), the message of this story is universal: acceptance. Acceptance when life is shitty, when you don't get what you want, when people disappoint you, when you know, going in, that you're going to screw up, when you look in the mirror. Acceptance is not only sought by the twins, but also by Lillian, the woman hired to look after them, a woman who has been closed off and fearful her whole life, who lost faith that her life would ever amount to anything.

It's got a touch too much sugar in the mix for my particular taste, and I could have done without the distracting repetition of "admitted" and "offered" as dialogue descriptors, but otherwise, this is a heartwarming (not burning) story. Did I mention, not a cetacean to be found here? Bonus!


P.S.: for more eloquent thoughts on this novel, please hop over to Betsy's review. She nailed it.
Profile Image for Ace.
430 reviews23 followers
December 8, 2019
An interesting premise, but I did not enjoy the writing or characterisation at all. I was curious enough to see where it would go, but at the end I am feeling like there was really nothing to see here.

Profile Image for David Putnam.
Author 15 books1,434 followers
April 11, 2020
A quirky story about two kids who once agitated light on fire; burst into flames. Nothing happens to the kids, they are unharmed when it happens. This book has a gentle pressure that pulls you through the text and keeps you turning the pages. I did not think I would like it but, ended up enjoying it a great deal. Its more about relationships, old and new. How Lilian melds with the two children almost like an Old Yeller kind of story (that’s a bad example but that’s what it felt like). I laughed out loud in several places, the wry sense of humor in situational comedy. I also found it easy to buy into the premise. I think it was because Lilian (the point of view character) didn’t make a big deal about it when it was explained to her, almost like, “Oh, the kids just light on fire.” Since she bought into it so easily (and I already knew her well before this occurred and trusted her judgement) I went along for the ride. It was weird how I dropped into the story and believed it. That wonderful, ever elusive, “Fictive Dream” I’m always on the hunt for is definitely present in this book. I love a story that can evoke this kind of emotion. One bit of criticism, I think the often-overused F-bomb didn’t have a place here. I’m not a prude by any stretch but the book would have had such a stronger impact without it. And it might have had a better chance of becoming a timeless kind of story. This is a four-and-half-star book and I would recommend it.
David Putnam the author of the Bruno Johnson series.
Profile Image for Michelle .
846 reviews1,180 followers
June 3, 2020
Why have I waited so long to read this???

This may have been one of the cutest stories I have ever read. ����

Lillian is asked by her best friend Madison to become the "governess" to her two 10 year old twin step kids, Bessie and Roland. Their mother has just passed away so they will be coming to live with them and she could really use the help. However there is a catch. The kids spontaneously combust when ever they become upset and let me tell you that hilarity ensues from here. Oh, my heart, how I love these characters. Lillian is the best friend every one should wish for and Bessie and Roland are just the most adorable little fire demons you could ever ask for. My life seems almost richer from having met these unforgettable fictional characters and for that I thank you, Kevin Wilson. ALL THE STARS!
April 3, 2020
Great flaming balls of fire!! Kids that catch on fire! No, nothing to see here!

You can't get anymore original than this quirky, sweet, mesmerizing funny and touching story that uniquely explores what is normal and the power of compassion. It left me thinking we can normalize almost anything if we have compassion for each other.

I loved our main character here, Lillian, whose's job is to keep fireballs Bessie and Roland calm while keeping her own cool. These adorable twins who I wanted to give a big hug to take temper tantrums to a whole new level and they don't just have meltdowns they start on fire. Kevin Wilson brilliantly weaves that into the story as a form of self-protection and defence.

Lillian, with her own conflicts and an oddball herself, is not afraid of these little fireballs. Her plan is to "hypnotize them with my own weirdness." She accepts them, protects them and loves them just the way they are. My heart melted and felt like it would burst in flames itself.

This is one odd, entertaining story with one of the weirdness storylines ever; however, by the end of the story, it all felt normal. Now that's some talent. I highly recommend it.

Profile Image for Larry H.
2,440 reviews29.4k followers
November 10, 2019
This is truly an odd, funny, poignant book about finding a place and people with whom you belong, and how family can spring from the strangest of situations.

"How did people protect themselves? How did anyone keep this world from ruining them?"

Lillian has always accepted that she won’t accomplish much in life. For a brief moment in her teenage years, however, she attended a private high school and befriended Madison, a beautiful but quirky rich girl, and Lillian started to believe she had potential. But Lillian had to leave school in the wake of a scandal and everything went back to the way it used to be. And that’s the way her life went for a number of years until Madison, now the wife of a U.S. senator with greater ambitions, summons her with a proposal.

Madison’s young stepchildren have lost their mother and the right thing to do for appearances’ sake is for them to move home. But these children have been raised horribly, mistreated, all because of one thing—they spontaneously combust when they get agitated and flames ignite their skin without harming them. Is this something they can control? No one has ever really tried to figure it out.

Lillian agrees to serve as the children’s governess of sorts and keep them out of harm’s (and the media’s) way for a while. It is expected that Madison's husband will be nominated as Secretary of State, so the children need to keep a low profile through the confirmation process.

Lillian doesn’t count on how observant and desperate for love and approval the children are, and she doesn’t count on how much she has needed to be needed. She works on winning their trust, making them believe her feelings are true, which Lillian has to believe, too. Fighting for the children’s best interests—no mean feat given how the deck is stacked against them—awakens feelings of love and protectiveness she never imagined she’d feel.

This is a quirky book but it’s one that definitely worked its way into my heart. The characters aren’t sympathetic in many ways but I devoured this. Kevin Wilson, who also wrote The Family Fang, really created a moving story.

NetGalley and Ecco Books provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.

You can follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.
Profile Image for Nicole.
369 reviews12.6k followers
November 27, 2021
4,5
Bardzo mi się podobała! Ciekawe spojrzenie na rolę opieki nad dzieckiem.
Profile Image for Larry.
76 reviews8,794 followers
February 6, 2022
Really enjoyed this book - great characters, great writing, made me laugh out loud several times. Kept thinking, I wish I had this ability to protect myself when I needed it. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :) .
958 reviews2,557 followers
April 30, 2021
I really didn’t have much idea what I was getting into with this book, I just went into it blind. I loved it!!!!!!!!!!! I listened to the audiobook from Audible and the narrator was fantastic.

Is this book quirky? YES Is it hard to believe that children bursting into flames is possible? YES Did it matter to the enjoyment of the book NO!!!

This book was clever, witty and incredibly original.

This is a story about friendship, often taken for granted by some while held onto fiercely by others. It’s about learning your strengths and making the most of the opportunities that come our way. It’s about loving someone and getting nothing in return.

Lillian was always smart, though she came from a home with little love and not much support, she managed to get a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school, her future looked bright.

Her first ever roommate, Madison, was from a wealthy family. Though there were so many differences in their upbringing, they forged a friendship and things were great for a while. Then Madison is caught with some drugs and her wealthy father makes a deal with Lillian’s mother, she would receive a lot of money if Lillian said that the drugs were hers. She did, and was expelled from the school.

Lillian is still trying to figure out her life, still living with her mother whom she doesn’t share much of a bond with. It has been years since the incident with Madison and Lillian, though Lillian still considers Madison her best friend.

She gets a call from Madison and this time she is asking something incredible from her friend. She wants her to come to her stately home in Tennessee where she lives with her senator husband. She has one child with Jasper but now they have a problem to solve. Jasper had twins with his former wife and she has recently died. The children are unusual to say the least, they can burst into flames, spontaneously and seemingly without their control. They have been hidden away from Jasper’s political life because, who would approve of a man who will possibly be the next Secretary of State who has two children who SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUST!!

Over the next few months and lots of crazy experiments to try to control the children’s fire problems, Lillian finds herself bonding deeply with these children, having fun with them and watching them start to feel safe.. She feels their abandonment issues and identifies with them.

Just when things are going great, there is another upheaval and Jasper no longer wants the twins or Lillian in his life.

How Madison and Lillian come to deal with their friendship and the children I will leave you to discover. This was so much fun to listen to and I really felt so much for Roland and Bessie who had been neglected for so long. These were kids who deserved kindness and love.

I highly recommend this audiobook if you want to try something different, it will end up making you feel happy, optimistic and satisfied.
Profile Image for Tina.
2,306 reviews1 follower
July 24, 2022
This book was so good, but it was weird. I did not think I was going to like this book, but I loved it. This book is about a woman paying her best friend to watch her step children. The children are not normal children. The children catches on fire when they get mad or upset. The fire does not hurt the kids, but it burn the clothes they are wearing and hurts people near them. The book is written very good. I cannot say how much I loved this book. If you like different or little weird books you should give this book a try.
Profile Image for Fran (apologies...way behind).
619 reviews564 followers
June 26, 2019
Lillian had "a desire to be superlative...a sterling representative of this backward county"... when she won a scholarship to prestigious Iron Mountain Girls Preparatory School. Lillian and her roommate Madison became fast friends despite the fact that upper crust Madison "...had been raised since birth to recognize importance. [Lillian] was not that." However, Lillian and Madison needed each other. They strived to "tamp down their weirdness." Madison acknowledged that rich people "... had to be composed in public...were supposed to act a certain way." Lillian was treated like a poor,"strange" scholarship kid. Lillian's fallen from grace occurred when she took the rap for Madison and was expelled from the prep. school. More than a decade later, Madison was "a mover and a shaker", married to Senator Jaspar Roberts. Lillian worked two cashier jobs and smoked weed. She and Madison became pen pals communicating solely by mail. Fifteen years had passed since Lillian was forced to leave the school..but...change was coming!

Change arrived in the form of a request from Madison to visit the Roberts Estate in Tennessee. A job opportunity. Jaspar Roberts was being vetted for the position of Secretary of State. Since Jaspar's ex-wife had died, he was responsible for ten year old twins, Bessie and Roland. Madison offered Lillian the job of governess for two unsocialized, home schooled children. As governess, she would spend the summer with the kids in the estate's guest house and, by the way, the children had a "unique" affliction. If they got really agitated, they would spontaneously combust. Senator Roberts wanted the children "safeguarded" until the vetting process was completed. Lillian was currently living with her mom and mom's "rotating cast of her boyfriends". Lillian felt needed by Madison and accepted this daunting job.

Bessie and Roland were angry children. They previously had been expelled from Jaspar's Estate after their parent's divorce. Will their bitterness dissipate when they live in the estate's guest house with Lillian? Lillian was searching for direction in her life. How could she, unfamiliar with the needs of children, prevent the twins from overheating and fully bursting into flames?

"Nothing to See Here" by Kevin Wilson brings many issues to the forefront. These challenges include finding one's inner strength, friendship and loyalty, money and power ...dark humor included! Author Wilson does a superb job. I highly recommend this book.

Thank you HarperCollins Publishers/ Ecco and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "Nothing to See Here".
Profile Image for Jennifer Welsh.
208 reviews150 followers
July 24, 2022
This is the easiest read I’ve encountered in a long time, perfect to lift anyone from a reading slump. A story ultimately of motherhood, wrapped in a quirky tale between two loner friends and how they try to contain the strange fact that two children’s bodies catch and cause fire when emotionally wrought. The children’s safety is at risk, the destruction of all matter around them is at risk, and the reputation of a high-profile couple is at risk. Full of whimsy, narcissism, and rage, the struggles are fun, the story feel-good.
Profile Image for Betsy Robinson.
Author 9 books993 followers
November 8, 2019
When I was an actress in my 20s, I took voice lessons with an old German man named Mr. Jacobi. I was a terrible singer, but it was okay. I wasn't learning to sing. I was learning to use my voice to its full potential. I knew this because one of Mr. Jacobi's favorite things to say after he sat down at the piano and leaned on the first chord was, "We accept here." That meant that no matter what sound I made, it was fine with both of us.

"We accept here." That could be the philosophy expressed by this wonderful page-turner of a book.

A young woman takes a job as a governess for two extraordinary children.

The people are weird—not trying to be weird—and it is acceptable. And therefore it is acceptable that I identified with every one of them and the writer. And that's so easy because author Kevin Wilson is not trying to write weirdness or (one of my least favorite words) quirkiness. He is merely writing these particular real people who deal with a lot of difficult specific stuff and have their own ways of thinking, all in a well-written fantasy of finding acceptance.

I adored this book. It is authentic, charming, and brimming with palpable love.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,378 reviews517 followers
October 15, 2019
[4.5] The idea of a plot involving two kids who spontaneously ignite when they get anxious didn't sound appealing to me. But I was wrong. I loved the main character, Lillian, an outsider who is stuck in her life until an old friend calls for her help. I loved the way Wilson portrayed the two very likable kids - who have been unfairly treated by their family because of their unusual ability (or disability).

I was pulled into this novel from the first pages and got up for air only to help prepare dinner and eat, then went right back until I finished. Fortunately it was a Sunday! Is it a great novel? I have no idea - but it is well-written and weird and tender-hearted. I have to give it 5 stars. And I have to go read Kevin Wilson's backlist.
Profile Image for Maggie Stiefvater.
Author 63 books167k followers
Read
November 7, 2020
A sarcastic girl from the wrong side of the tracks finds herself nannying two children who catch fire whenever they're agitated. A brief and slyly-observed novel on parenthood and privilege.
Profile Image for Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill.
503 reviews623 followers
May 29, 2020
Sooo if my college roommate contacted me to be a nanny I would have to politely decline. If she added that it is no biggie that the kids have this little condition- that they spontaneously combust on occasion...yeah that answer would be hells to the no! I really was hesitate to pick up this little quirky book but the raving reviews got to me.

I am not going to lie this book was entertaining but I don't know why. I simply can't put my finger on it. The plot was pretty much non existent. The characters weren't that well developed. Yet- flip, flip, flip went the pages. I wasn't even tempted to DNF or put it down. I actually flew through it in a day. It was the weirdest thing but it entertained me and kept my interest in the middle of a pandemic...so WINNING...oh god did I just use that phrase?!

This is a great book to pick up if you want to have an easy quick read. It doesn't require you to concentrate a whole bunch and somehow the story makes sense. I just wasn't really blown away with it because I thought there would be a bigger story line. Maybe some astonishing revelations but not really just some blowing up kids. Still glad I gave it a try!

Profile Image for Kaceey.
1,004 reviews3,515 followers
March 13, 2020
This book gives a whole new meaning to the word hot-flash! 🔥
Once I learned what the story-line for this book was, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.
It involves twin kids that spontaneously burst into flames. It now had my un-divided attention. See, growing up, this was actually my greatest fear – that I would spontaneously combust! (Thanks to my big brother). It’s something we still laugh about to this day. And now after foolishly sharing that little fact with my husband, he constantly teases me about it.

OK! Back to the book!
Bessie and Roland are a pair of quirky 10 year old twins that don’t quite fit in. At times of anger, fear or just simply not understanding what’s going on around them, Bessie and Roland burst into flames. I suppose in a way those emotions can light a fire of sorts within all of us. Maybe we just express it differently. You know…without the flames!

I noted than many readers describe this book as humorous, though I never quite saw it that way. For me, more of a heart-warming story about friendship, love and wanting to belong.

I listened to the audio and the narrator did an amazing job! If this quirky book is on your list I recommend the audio version.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,846 reviews34.9k followers
November 12, 2019
The responsible adults in charge needed to come up with a plan.....
....the fire children’s mother died.
*Fire* children - you ask?
YEP!!!! 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

An ***AUDIOBOOK-FAVORITE***.....
read by the ‘outstanding’ Marin Ireland.

Marin Ireland, made this book come ‘alive’!!!!
The ranges in her voice sounded completely different for each character.
She was fantastic with the children’s voices.

The children, ( twins Bessie & Rolan), & Lillian ( unique governess), stole my heart.

Quirky and moving!!!

You’d have to be half dead not to enjoy this book!!!










Profile Image for Cheri.
1,685 reviews2,240 followers
July 29, 2021


Originally I came across this book when I was reading the excerpts in the Buzz Books 2019 Fall / Winter collection of the best stories to look out for in the coming months. It sounded promising, but it took me a while to request this since this is an author I wasn’t familiar with. I’m glad that I did, even more so when I saw the author’s Dedication – ”For Ann Patchett and Julie Barer” having recently spent time in another world courtesy of Ann Patchett.

Madison is the daughter of a well-to-do family, and Lillian is a girl born into an impoverished life, both monetarily and in affection. Lillian makes her way to her dorm room alone after her mother drops her off at the esteemed Iron Mountain Girls Preparatory School, cautioning her that she’s about to enter a world for which she’s utterly unprepared.

” As I walked to my dorm, I realized that the other girls didn’t even look at me, and I could tell that it wasn’t out of meanness. I don’t think they even saw me; their eyes had been trained since birth to recognize importance. I wasn’t that.”

They become friends almost as soon as they meet when Lillian arrives, but there is a sense of an uneven nature to their friendship. Madison takes Lillian under her wing, and just as easily, places her under the guillotine when it serves her purpose, and Lillian ends up expelled from the only chance she’s ever had to escape the life she was born into.

Time passes, fifteen years, and although they’ve communicated through mail periodically, but not regularly. And then Madison contacts her, asking her to come visit their estate, without stating the job opportunity she has in mind – a job as governess, caring for, watching over her husband Jaspar’s twins by his now-deceased ex-wife. Bessie and Roland are ten-years-old, and are not like most ten-year-olds, they have an exceptionally unfortunate condition, which seems to “flare up.” When annoyed, agitated, angry they seem to, well, umm… spontaneously combust. Most unfortunate. But, the problems directly created are less the issue that concerns Madison and Jasper, they are more concerned that Jasper’s political future will be impacted should other become aware of this information.

Since it’s impossible to determine when and where these incidences might occur, it’s considered “best for all” if Lillian lives in a “guest cottage” on their massive property with the twins, with the added charge of making sure she also handles the twins home schooling. Since Jasper, excuse me, Senator Roberts, was being vetted for a potential position in a large white home on Pennsylvania Avenue. Of course, it would never do for a prominent political figure, especially with so many eyes on him, to have children who could create awkward moments – especially those involving flames sparked by a moment of anger. The publicity would ruin him, imagine the tweets generated!

I enjoyed this one so much more than I anticipated, and appreciated the light touch of dark humour that is woven throughout this story, as well as the themes of power and money in politics, as well as friendship, abandonment and, most of all, the power of love.



Published: 29 Oct 2019


Many thanks for the ARC provided by HarperCollins Publishers / Ecco
Profile Image for L A i N E Y.
396 reviews672 followers
September 2, 2022
“I started to care less about the future, I care more about making the present more tolerable. And time passed. And that was my life.”

I am convinced that not one writer, even if they’ve tried, could have come up with a less interesting plot to me than Kevin Wilson did for Nothing to See Here! Reading the synopsis stirred not one ounce of curiosity in me. Not a one. But since many GR readers I look up to fell in love with the book, I pretty much just took a huge leap of faith with it and the payoff I got was so much sweeter because of that.

I adore Lilian as a human being so much: she’s so grounded even when you can clearly see her struggles. I love how subtle her real emotions were handled throughout the story. She’s still got her humor on even though I think she knows that she needs to start value herself more. I don’t think caring for these children could have come at a better time for her, it totally reignited her passionate self and gave her something to fight for again. So in the end they certainly helped each other more than they realized and that was incredibly precious.


“They didn’t want to set the world on fire. They just want to be less alone in it.”


This is an extraordinary book on audio. What an excellent performance by one of my favorite narrators, Marin Ireland. Touching and funny and all together addictive.
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