cover image Paranoid Park

Paranoid Park

Blake Nelson, . . Viking, $15.99 (180pp) ISBN 978-0-670-06118-1

Nelson (Gender Blender ) breaks new ground with this psychological thriller tracing the chilling consequences of an impulsive act of violence. The adventure-turned-nightmare begins at Paranoid Park, an "underground" skateboard park in Portland, Ore., with a "dangerous, sketchy vibe." Finding himself with nothing to do on a Saturday night, the unnamed narrator, a high-school junior, enters the park looking for excitement and ends up involved in a scuffle between Scratch, a "borderline gutter punk," and a security guard. The guard is killed. There are no witnesses except the two surviving boys, and the narrator must decide what to do after Scratch flees the scene of the accident. Written in the form of a confessional letter, the book details the narrator's moral dilemma after the incident. Tormented by nightmares, questioned by the police and toying with the notion of telling the truth to his father or the authorities, the narrator remains paralyzed, trapped by his feelings of guilt and paranoia. While effectively conveying the intensity of his protagonist's emotions, the author refrains from passing judgment. It is left up to readers to decide if the narrator is a criminal or a victim, and how he will be affected by his final decision. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)