By People Staff
July 29, 2002 12:00 PM

By Nick McDonell

Private-school student White Mike may “have genius in him,” but he has dropped out to deal drugs to Manhattan’s moneyed youth. Mike, the central character in 18-year-old Nick McDonell’s audacious first novel, is a Holden Caulfield for the been-there, done-that generation. By turns cynical and sensitive, concerned and calculating, he struggles desperately to make sense of his out-of-control world and a city where homeless people “chewed off their own hands while the people next to them sipped champagne in tuxedos.”

The novel, both an indictment of excess and a cry of teenage loneliness, is briskly paced and snappy, name-checking both Camus and Eminem in its sketches of the nihilistic spawn of Manhattan’s big fish. Despite McDonell’s eye for the awful—including a superfluous Columbine-recalling finale—his spoiled characters are somehow sympathetic. The plot may not be fully developed, but the sense of foreboding and darkness is. (Grove, $23)

Bottom Line: Ahead of its class