This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
WHAT'S NOTHING TO SEE HERE ABOUT?
Over a decade ago Lillian and Madison were roommates at a boarding school for the upper crust (or scholarship kids like Lillian). They were incredibly close until Lillian was expelled. Even then, Madison wrote Lillian regularly and Lillian responded sometimes. They didn't see each other, only corresponded.
Madison's gone on to success in politics—first as a campaign staffer, now as the wife of a Senator, who is likely to be tapped for a Cabinet position. Lillian...well, she's not done really well for herself. The controversy over her expulsion followed her through school—she didn't get the scholarships she needed to get out of her situation. She's still living with her mother—which is a pretty contentious relationship.
Now Madison writes with a job offer/plea for help. The Senator's previous wife has recently died and he needs to take custody of their children. Madison would like Lillian to act as a governess (Lillian keeps saying "nanny," much to Madison's consternation) for them, at least until her husband's nomination is confirmed by the Senate.
There's a catch. The twins will sometimes burst into flames. Like Johnny Storm without the flying or the trip into space that goes horribly wrong.
They won't suffer any injury from it, but the same can't be said for their clothing or anything near them. Lillian needs to keep them out of the press, away from Madison's son, and hopefully under control. They want to/need to take care of the twins, but really don't want to have anything to do with them.
This will be the best-paying job Lillian ever has held. She knows nothing about working with kids—and the only models she's ever had for it are horrible. But she'll do whatever Madison asks (and she could use the money). Also, she knows what it's like to be a kid who needs a break—maybe she can help these kids out.
A PLEASANT TWIST
So you have a couple of kids who burst into flames from time to time. 97% of authors are going to devote the novels to the rest of the characters spending the bulk of the book trying to figure out how or why that happens, and what they can do to stop it/duplicate it/fight crime with it.
Wilson's in that other 3%, thankfully. Yes, there are some efforts to learn why it happens, but that's never the focus—and most of the time, those who are investigating aren't characters who were supposed to be that sympathetic.
The focus remains on the kids as kids—how does Lillian help them feel safe? Wanted? Normal? She does work with them on not bursting into flame—but it's not so much about the ability/affliction, but about helping them to be comfortable in their own skins—whatever temperature it is. It's about self-acceptance (which leads to control).
HOW WAS THE NARRATION?
Normally, it takes me a chapter or two to "get into" a new-to-me narrator, or at least to decide what I think of the narration overall. But Ireland won me over within the first couple of minutes—as a certain janitor says, "I don't know what IT is, but [s]he's got it."
She's a narrator I'll keep my eyes out for. I don't know that I've seen her in anything, but I saw today that she's going to be in the Justified revival—I'm looking forward to that.
SO, WHAT DID I THINK ABOUT NOTHING TO SEE HERE?
One of the reasons that I put off reading/listening to this book for so long, was that I remember The Family Fang falling apart in the end—or at least not ending as good as the first 80% or so of the book was*. I was more than a little apprehensive that the same thing would apply here. Thankfully, I was wrong.
* My memory of it is hazy, that's just the sense I have—I could be wrong.
This book started strong and kept getting better—it didn't end like I thought it would but ended the only way it could've (in retrospect). The only way it could've been better is for the middle bit to be longer and more detailed. These are fantastic characters, and the concept is just as fantastic. These kids belong in a speculative work of some kind—SF or Fantasy (Urban or otherwise). But no, Wilson puts them in the middle of a family drama. And it's great to see. Funny, warm, and heartfelt—Nothing to See Here scored on all fronts for me.