Did Kevin Wilson’s book make you laugh? Did it make you cry? Did you find yourself doing both of those things at once? That’s something to ask your book club friends for sure. Wilson’s Nothing to See Here certainly plays the full emotional set list with themes on class dynamics, friendship dynamics, othering, grief, loneliness and the weirdness that we call family.
You know how sometimes your book club runs through a boring book quickly and you soon find yourself with nothing else to say? That won’t be happening here. Use our Nothing to See Here book club questions and your group discussion will be full of fiery talk that unpacks these quirky characters, their motivations, and their wildly diverging ways of dealing with life. This Nothing to See Here discussion guide also includes a synopsis and some selected reviews, which can add fodder to your conversation.
And if you liked the book, keep scrolling for some related reads.
Nothing to See Here Synopsis
(We always chose to provide the publisher synopsis because we feel that it’s worthwhile to discuss whether the official book description actually squared with your experience of the book.)
Nothing to See Here, Kevin Wilson
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Family Fang, a moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning in her life when she begins caring for two children with a remarkable ability.
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.
Nothing to See Here Book Club Questions
These questions have been tailored to this book’s specific reading experience, but if you want more ideas, we also have an article with 101 generic book club questions.
- “This is weird, Madison. You want me to raise your husband’s fire children.”
Are the flammable kids a gimmick? Or was the fire meant to be a metaphor for family dynamics, disability or the unpredictable nature of small kids dealing with big issues?
- After taking the hit for Madison and getting kicked out of school, Lillian sinks into a low-ambition life– her opportunities faded to a shadow of what they once were. But whose fault is that? Madison and her father for offering the bribe? Lillian’s mother for taking it? Or Lillian herself for letting it shut her down?
- Lillian lives in Madison’s thrall. Even despite the betrayal, when Madison asks for help with the kids, Lillian comes to the rescue. What is it about the nature of their relationship that makes it hard for Lillian to say no?
- Lillian tried hard to help the kids. Despite her lack of parental experience or teacher training, she deploys a series of creative ways to keep the kids safe and engaged. What is it about Lillian that make her good at that?
- How would you rate Jasper’s parenting skills on a scale of 1-10. With one being “I’m a dad? What now?” and 10 being “proud recipient of the Father of the Year commemorative mug”.
- What if Jasper had just come clean and embraced his fire children. Can America handle a Senator or Secretary of State with kids who burst into flames?
- What did you make of the relationship between Lillian and Carl. Adversaries? Partners in crime? Friends? Something else?
- Setting aside the flames, do you recognize any of these family dynamics in your life? What about the absentee or indifferent parent, conflicting values, challenges of blended families, the pain of grief, class/wealth inequities, or elements of found (or chosen) family.
- “If there were a button that would end the world, and that button were right in front of me, I would have smashed it so hard at that moment. I often thought about a button like that, and when I did, I always knew that I’d push it.”
Have you had a moment when you wanted to smash that button?
- “The kids were happy. They had added another to their numbers. They didn’t want to set the world on fire. They just wanted to be less alone in it.”
In the end, Lillian and the kids become a family unit. Think forward 5 years…how do you think it’s going for them?
Selected Reviews for Nothing to See Here
“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.”
“…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.”
“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 […] 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.”
“An interesting premise, but I did not enjoy the writing or characterization 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.”
3 Books Like Nothing to See Here
Nothing to See Here was a Today Show Jenna’s book club read. If you like their pics, we have a full list of Jenna’s book club pics (in order and rated).
The House in the Cerulean Sea, TJ Klune
If you want more found family with lovable, but troubled kids who can be kinda dangerous, then this is your next read. In it, Linus Baker works for the highly bureaucratic (and deeply flawed) Department in Charge Of Magical Youth (DICOMY), evaluating the orphanages and schools that house magical children. He cares about his job, but his emotional life is pretty walled off. When he’s called to evaluate the students at Marsyas Island Orphanage, he is surprised by what he finds there and it changes him in the most profound ways.
This book is a big warm hug with all the feels, and bonus points for an LGBTQ plotline and students who are very species-diverse.
Read it for book club and use our Cerulean Sea book club guide.
The Dutch House, Ann Pratchett
If you are keen for more people who could win the “worst parents of the year” award and also some fiercely loyal sibling dynamics, this is the book for you.
After Maeve and Danny’s mother abruptly runs off, their father remarries. But they never gel with their step-mother and when their father dies, they are left with (almost) nothing when their step-mother kicks them out. While Danny milks his only inheritance–a generous scholarship– the two siblings meet regularly in front of the old family pile, rehashing old wounds and looking to the future.
Wilson and Pratchett are actually old friends and the two books share a dynamic featuring both familial strife and familial warmth.
And, lucky you, we have a discussion guide for The Dutch House.
Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
How about some more fraught family relationships, class and race dynamics, pissed off teenagers and a literal house on fire?
This book is a slow-moving character portrait filled with complex family dynamics, small-town politics and the dangers of privilege. Mia’s daughter Pearl becomes friends with the kids of their landlord, Mrs. Richardson. They all become embroiled in the high drama of teenagers coming of age. The book also features a fraught local battle regarding the adoption of a Chinese baby by a rich, white family.
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