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Paranoid Park

Review

Paranoid Park

PARANOID PARK is a dark and intense psychological thriller of a novel that puts a normal teen in a very difficult situation.

Written as a confessional letter, it starts after a fateful night at a Portland, Oregon skatepark known as "Paranoid Park." Paranoid is "an underground 'street' park, which means there are no rules, nobody owns it, and you don't have to play to skate." But Paranoid is also "kind of a street-kid hangout. There's all these stories, like how a skinhead got stabbed there once. That's why it's called Paranoid Park. It has a dangerous, sketchy vibe to it."

After going to Paranoid Park with his older friend Jared, the narrator (who remains unnamed throughout the book) is enthralled by the experience. Skating at Paranoid meant you were in the "big leagues." The boys planned to return to the skatepark together that weekend, but plans changed when a college girl invited Jared to a party. Still lured by the thrillride of Paranoid, the narrator returns on his own.

At the park, the narrator finds himself hanging out with a "streeter" named Scratch and a bunch of other street-kid types. Scratch tells stories about how he lived up and down the West Coast, hopping trains and living in bus stations. Somehow, our "prep" narrator gets talked into hopping a local train with Scratch and the evening turns into even more of an adventure. The fun stops abruptly when a security guard gets thrown in the mix and a teenage adventure becomes the cause of a crime.

With a dead body and no witnesses, the narrator is paralyzed with fear. What should he do? Who will he tell? Will anyone believe him that this truly was an accident? Trapped by his own paranoia and the possible consequences of one night on the rest of his life, the narrator spends the remainder of the novel in a CRIME AND PUNISHMENT-like dilemma.

Author Blake Nelson, best known for his lighter works like ROCK STAR SUPERSTAR, THE NEW RULES OF HIGH SCHOOL and the seminal GIRL, does a phenomenal job portraying the raw and troubled emotions of a teen in turmoil without casting judgment. It's up to readers to decide how they feel about the character and the moral dilemma he faces. PARANOID PARK is in pre-production with director Gus Van Sant, known for films like Elephant and Good Will Hunting. It will be interesting to see how this haunting novel translates to the big screen.

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Reviewed by Kristi Olson on October 18, 2011

Paranoid Park
by Blake Nelson

  • Publication Date: September 21, 2006
  • Genres: Psychological Thriller
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Juvenile
  • ISBN-10: 0670061182
  • ISBN-13: 9780670061181