December 07, 2006

Skateboarding Is Not A Crime... Mostly...

This book is a 2006 Cybil Award Nominee for YA Fiction.

Paranoid Park has a rep for being one of the toughest hangouts for skaters around -- it's even tougher than Suicide Stairwell, where Jared Fitch used to hang. Paranoid -- which non-skaters call "the unauthorized skate park beneath Eastside Bridge" -- is under a cement overpass, and it's where Streeters hang out. Streeters can hack the hard runs and the big drops at Paranoid, 'cause they are tough -- they're the reason for Paranoid's rep, after all. It's one thing for Preppies to hang out there in herds -- they're safer that way, and really, in their clean clothes riding their pricey boards, people can tell they're not Streeters. The Streeters might give them some lip, but they pretty much avoid each other -- Preps watch the Streeters, Streeters watch the Preps, and everybody pretty much stays on their own side.

Just, don't go there alone, okay? Stuff... happens out at Paranoid.

An accident leaves a dead body and no witnesses, and one terrified and unnamed Prep, whose visceral reaction to the horrifying, which includes weeping, sweating, and running scared -- is very, very real. Someone has died, someone with a family, maybe, an adult, and that is some serious stuff. He's sorry -- really sorry. It was an accident, but he's going to call someone. He's going to talk to his Dad. He's going to make some kind of decision -- soon. Only, his parents are getting a divorce and his Mom spends all her time crying, while his Dad is -- camping? And his kind-of-girlfriend cheerleader Jennifer is aggravatingly pressuring him to sleep with her (All of her other friends have "done it;" wouldn't want her to be the only virgin and out of the loop), school is like a noose tightening around his neck, and now the police are rounding up the Prep skaters, saying they just want to "talk." There are justifications in the silence, and in the silence, there is nothing but the memory playing over and over and over again.

What would you do?

A taut thriller that explores the power of secrets, the moral responsibility of the truth, and the power of using words to keep us sane, Blake Nelson has crafted a finely balanced semi-epistolary novel (that will soon be a movie!) with a surprising conclusion.

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