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"Twelve" by NickMcDonnell - Referat

Nick McDonnell – Twelve


My book report is about “Twelve“ by Nick McDonnell.
First, I want to tell you something about the author:


Nick McDonnell was born on Feb, 18th 1984 in New York and he grew up in Manhattan. His family is very healthy because his father is a journalist and his mother works as a writer.
Since 2002 Nick studies at Harvard University in Boston.
His book “Twelve” wrote Nick McDonnell during his summer holidays in 2001 at the age of only 17. When he was asked why he wrote this book he answered that it had been a simple desire to write it and that he had just started and after a short time he had written already 80 pages. His goal was to write 1000 words a day and so his first novel could be published in 2002.Nick McDonnell was lucky to have parents working in the publishing world, so he had better opportunities to publish “Twelve”.
Today it is translated into more than 11 languages and it is also planned to make a film of the book.
In September his next novel, called “The third brother” will be published.
The critics were mainly enthusiastic about his debut, but some of them criticized him sharply because of the fact that his parents are very influential in the publishing world and that is why it was easier for him to publish “Twelve”.


Now I want to introduce the characters:
There are many different characters and sometimes it is a little bit hard to tell them apart, because the scenes change very quickly.

At first there is White Mike:
He is the main character but he is not the narrator.
Once he was a very good and intelligent pupil and he could go to Harvard University but at the moment he doesn’t want to, instead he takes a year off.
His mother died of cancer some time ago and he lives with his father in an apartment.
Although he has never smoked or drunk he is a very good drug dealer, he deals also with a completely new drug called “Twelve” which he gets from Lionel, who is an other dealer. Twelve is similar to cocaine but its effect exceeds cocaine.

White Mike’s cousin Charlie is nearly as old as White Mike and they have always been like brothers. Charlie is involved in dealing, too.

Hunter is a good friend of White Mike and he often plays basketball with black kids.

Then there are the brothers Chris and Claude:
Chris is 17, 5 years old and his only aim is to get a girlfriend. Until now he haven’t had much luck with girls and he wants to change that. Therefore he gives many parties with a lot of alcohol and of course a lot of drugs.

Claude is older than his brother Chris and he is very handsome. He was very addicted to cocaine, but now he is clean and his new hobby is collecting weapons.
Claude’s and Chris’ parents are very rich and so they were raised by nannies and now they suffer from the fact that their parents never spent time with them.

Claude’s friend is called Tobias and he is a model.

An other boy who is involved in the whole story is Andrew. He is a friend of Hunter.

Finally, there are Timmy and Mark Rothko. Both are “wiggers”, that means they try to be cool by imitating Blacks. They are the funny characters of the book because they only want to have fun and smoke a joint sometimes.

Now to the girls:
Sara is the most beautiful and popular girl at school and almost every boy dreams of her, also Chris. She is very superficial because she only thinks about her appearance and about her own advantage. So she is also very unscrupulous.

Then there is Jessica: She is almost as beautiful as Sara and very addicted to drugs. She tried already cocaine and ecstasy and now she discovered the new drug called “twelve”.

The last girl is Molly. She is a friend of White Mike but she doesn’t know that he is a dealer.

Molly, Timmy and Mark Rothko are the only characters of the book that have not any serious problems.


At first I have to say that it is sometimes quite hard to follow the story because there are many characters as you have already seen and then there are quick changes between the scenes of the main story and the scenes of the different subplots. These changes are similar to films where the places and persons change all the time. So I tried to make clear what the characters do with the help of a kind of table which you can see on your handouts.

The story begins on the 27th of December which is a cold day in NY.
The main figure WM walks through Harlem in order to buy drugs which he can sell again. After Christmas all the rich kids from NY are at home and they buy drugs all the time, so WM earns a lot.
At the same time WM’s friend Hunter fights with a black youth called Nana at the recreational centre because Nana left the court and it was Hunter’s turn to play now. Then Nana came back and wanted to play again but the other players didn’t allow and so Nana got angry and he started beating Hunter. In the end there is every where blood, also on their clothes.
After the fight WM comes to the rec as the youths call it and he talks a while with his old friend Hunter. Then both leave and go home.
Nana goes home, too. He lives in a very poor area of New York. Before he reaches the door he watches a black man who murders a White. The murderer notices Nana and kills him, too, then he runs away with his gun and the gun from the first victim.

While all this happened in a poor area of NY, some very rich girls are on their way to Chris’s party. Sara and her friends talk about their classmates and the latest gossip. Chris is very glad that Sara comes to his party, but Sara is very bored by him and leaves soon.
Jessica is also at the party and he takes for the first time the new drug 12 which is a mix of cocaine and ecstasy.

Claude isn’t interested in parties anymore since he stopped taking cocaine. Tonight he and his friend Tobias got to Chinatown. Claude buys there illegally weapons.

The next day is Saturday and some detectives start to investigate the two murders which took place one day before. They ask at the rec and one boy called Arturo wants to be full of his own importance and tells them about the yesterday. But he lies all the time to embellish the happening. In the end the detectives think that Hunter murdered Nana because the boy told them that they were enemies and that Hunter is a nazi, too.
So the detectives take Hunter to the police station and finally they commit Hunter for trial. He is very confused and nobody can help him because his parents are in Europe and he hasn’t got a telephone number from their hotel.
Later he finds out that he has to stay in prison because the blood on his vlothes is identical with Nana’s.

Andrew is ice-skating and wonders that Hunter isn’t there because they wanted to meet at the ice-rink. Jessica and some of her friends are ice-skating, too. Jessica is careless and she barges into Andrew. He falls and finally has to go to hospital because of his lacerated wound. There he shares a bedroom with Sara’s boyfriend. Sara visits her boyfriend and talks also a little bit with Andrew. Andrew is fascinated by her appearance and feels very attracted to her.

When Sara leaves the hospital she visits Chris and suggests him to give the biggest party ever on New Year’s Eve because his parents aren’t at home. Chris doesn’t want to because he’s a little bit frightened that there will be too many people but when Sara kisses him he finally agrees because he cannot refuse Sara something.

In the afternoon Jessica meets WM and Lionel and buys 12 for 1000$. In the evening she took already all her 12. WM asks Lionel if he knew where Charlie was but Lionel doesn’t answer. The rest of the day WM sells cannabis and 12 to other people, e. g. Claude’s friend Tobias.

Claude is so fascinated by his sword and his other weapons he bought the day before and so he decides to visit the little shop in Chinatown again. Today he buys a sub-machine-gun.

The next day Molly visits WM. She isn’t sure if it is a good idea to go to Sara’s and Chris’ big Sylvester party. She also wants to know what WM does all the time because he isn’t at college. He tells her that he helps his father with the restaurant gains experience. When Molly has left he sets of and sells his drugs. On his way home he notices a black homeless man that is injured, so he helps
him and calls the ambulance.

Sara is planning the big party and needs money for drugs. So he visits Chris when he has got his boxing lesson and demands the money. Chris gives it to her and tries to kiss her but Sara doesn’t allow it.

The whole day long Claude is in his room and devotes himself to his weapons.

Andrew meets a strange old man who plays chess against himself. The man asks Andrew to play with him and so they play for a while and then go to a pub. There they talk about life and school.

On Monday the 30th of December WM phones an old friend and they talk about life and about learning. WM is convinced that he learns much more in the streets than his friend learns at Harvard. Later on WM goes by subway to Coney Island where he goes for a walk as he often does and on the side he sells his drugs to Andrew, Timmy and Mark Rothko and others.

Hunter is still in prison and he is also frightened, but at least he is allowed to call his father and a lawyer.

Andrew thinks about Sara all the time and finally he managed to call her. Sara invites him to her big party and tells him that he should bring some cannabis. Although Andrew doesn’t smoke and doesn’t know where to buy cannabis he promises that he would buy it in order to impress Sara. Andrew knows Timmy and Mark from school and so he asks them where to buy drugs. They recommend WM to him and so Andrew buys the cannabis from WM in the afternoon.

When Jessica wakes up she turns on the TV and watches all the talk-shows. She is fascinated by the quarrels of people that are not as privileged as she is. That’s why she thinks about herself that she is nasty and cruel. She thinks the only solution would be that somebody kills her. She takes all her teddy bears and imitates with them a kind of talk-show. The cuddly toys talk about a massacre at school and the way Jessica should be killed by the assassin. Later on Jessica meets her mother for lunch and her mother suggests Jessica to go to a psychiatrist because Jessica’s grades got worse and because of this it isn’t sure if Jessica may go to a renowned university.

Timmy and Mark Rothko spend their day with stealing CDs and buying cannabis. When they want to buy cigarettes the shop assistant notices their fake identity cards and threatens them with a revolver, so they leave voluntarily the shop.

The next day is New Year’s Eve and also the day of the biggest party ever.
Almost everyone is very excited about the party, except Claude. He prefers arranging his weapons and caring for them.

Andrew goes to the barbershop because he wants to look good when he sees Sara. Chris prepares himself by buying expensive after-shave and condoms because he hopes that Sara likes him, too and that they will become closer.

Timmy and Mark want to have cannabis again and occasionally they meet WM outside a bookstore. WM is willing to sell them something, but not at the moment. He doesn’t allow them to follow him, but suddenly Timmy and Mark are ringing the doorbell. Although WM is angry, he sells them their cannabis and they talk for a while.
When Timmy and Mark have left, Mike’s father calls him and tells him that 3 days ago his cousin Charlie was killed. WM is very confused and he leaves and goes to cathedral where he just sits and thinks. After a while he leaves and goes to Chris’ and Sara’ party.

At the party Jessica already waits for Lionel because she needs her 12. Unfortunately, Jessica hasn’t got enough money and so she even offers to sleep with Lionel to get the 12. He agrees when he hears that she still is a virgin.
When WM arrives at the party he completely freaks out and ruins the stereo system. He looks for Jessica because he suspects That Jessica is in danger when he buys 12 from Lionel. He finds them together in a bedroom. When WM enters the bedroom, Lionel threatens him with Charlie’s revolver and so WM understand that Lionel murdered Charlie. Lionel fires two shots and one of the bullets hits WM.

When Claude hears Lionel shooting he leaves his room with his sword and his sub-machine-gun.
At first he kills WM’s friend Molly, the most innocent of all and then Andrew. He goes on with Mark Rothko and Timmy. He misses his friend Tobias, but he hits Lionel who tries to escape. Then Claude kills other guests who were already injured. In the end there is a great blood-bath in the living room and on the stairs.
Chris hides upstairs and cries.
Finally, the police is arriving and Claude leaves the house and shoots around him, so the police shoot him dead.

At the end there is an after word from WM:
It says that WM had several operations and now he lives in Paris where he studies. WM likes Paris much more than NY.


Now I’d like to give you a kind of interpretation:
The book is written in a very direct way, that means that there are no long descriptions. Nick McDonell simply writes the facts down and that is why his style of writing is impersonal. At first, the reader isn’t touched at all. This changes in the end when Claude runs amok. Suddenly the reader understands what a cruel and dark story N McDonell wrote and one realizes what can happen when young people can do whatever they want.

The parents of all the rich kids in the book are never at home and never truly care for their children. They give them money and material things, but no affection and no interest.
The youths haven’t got any values or profundity. Their only aims are to look good, to have power and to satisfy their lust.
Sara for example knows that she is the most popular girl but she even wants to become immortal with the help of her biggest party ever at Chris.

This ambition for power can be deadly when we look at Claude:

As I’ve already mentioned at the beginning especially Claude suffers from the fact that his parents never spent time with him. Once he said that things never work and it is the same with his life:
As a child he missed his parents. In school he became a typical failure and he doesn’t shrink from bodily harm. Then he got into contact with drugs and was addicted to cocaine for a long time. When he managed to stop his consume of cocaine he started collecting weapons. His fanaticism was so marked that he was capable of running amok.
His crazed rampage initiated, but nobody had thought of a happening like that.

Unfortunately, one cannot interpret the story as a train of thought or pure fiction, for there were already several examples in reality.


Although the content of the book is sad and cruel, I liked it very much because of McDonell’s kind of telling the story style of writing.


1.) Author:
- born on 18th February 1984 in New York
- family: father is a journalist, mother is a writer, one brother
- 2002: TWELVE was published
started to study at Harvard University

2.) Characters:

White Mike: - very good pupil, now he takes a year off before he probably goes to Harvard
- does not drink or smoke but deals with drugs
Charlie: - White Mike’s cousin, they are like brothers
- deals with drugs, too
Hunter: - good friend of White Mike, they were together at grammar school
- often plays basketball with black youths
Chris: - 17, 5 years and very rich, not as handsome as his brother
- his only aim is to get a girlfriend
Claude: - Chris’ older brother, handsome
- once addicted to cocaine, now he is clean and collects weapons
Sara: - very rich, most attractive and popular girl at school
- superficial and unscrupulous
Jessica: - not as pretty as Sara, but also very popular
- addicted to the new drug called “twelve”
Lionel: - dealer who sells “twelve” to White Mike
Timmy & Mark: - “wiggers”, i. e. white kids who try to be black; two of White Mike’s clients
Molly: - very good friend of Mike but she does not know about his a job


4.) Interpretation:

The rich New Yorker youths can afford everything because their parents give them a lot of money, but no attention. So the youths are left to their own devices and can do whatever they want. That is why they have not got any values or any profundity. Their only aims are to look good, to have power and to satisfy their lust.

Claude: -suffers from the fact that his parents never spent time with him
- typical failure at school
 ambition for power; consequences:
- does not shrink from bodily harm
- addicted to cocaine
- crazy about weapons
 shows his “power” by using his weapons and running amok

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