Friday, May 24, 2013
Review: Paradise Squandered by Alex Stefansson
Insightful, provocative and bold, Paradise Squandered is Alex Stefansson's take-no-prisoners debut novel about a cynical teenager's naive artistic aspirations, and his pining love for a girl he is too afraid to actually talk to. It is a raw, powerful portrait of a disaffected generation in an empty, consumer-culture world. It is the story of Andrew Banks, a recent graduate of Puget Sound Prep and quite possibly the most directionless member of his graduating class.
This is a story of what it is like to aimlessly trudge along that strange and uncharted course that is life after high school.
Andrew returns home from a long-promised graduation trip to Hawaii and re-enters a bland, suburban landscape of privilege and indifference feeling alone and empty. The house he grew up in doesn't feel like home anymore. His mother seems more interested in desperately clinging to youth than being a mother. His sister only cares about playing the role of dutiful daughter. His brother disappeared years ago. His dad died when he was ten.
Talented but uninspired, Andrew knows he wants to pursue his art, but he has no idea how. He resigns himself to going through the motions of his own life, until he overhears the disturbing truth of his father's death. He instantly decides he has to leave his childhood home forever, and a darkly hilarious odyssey ensues.
Andrew moves to a new city with his best friend, David, who is going to college in the fall and has big plans for his future. Andrew's plans are less academic. He meets Steven, a highly ambitious artist with questionable motives, and a mysterious and alluring young woman who keeps him coming back to the same coffee shop, day after day. Andrew eventually discovers that some things are actually worth pursuing.
Paradise Squandered is an excellent coming of age novel that can appeal to those of all ages and tastes.
Beautifully written and thoroughly real, the work will leave readers thinking long after they read that final page.
Andrew is an excellent narrator. The kind of character that you feel you shouldn't like, but end up liking regardless. He has that connectable, witty sarcasm in his voice, displaying an honesty that hasn't been seen this successful since the narration of Holden Caulfield. The characterization that Stefansson crafts is remarkable.
Paradise Squandered holds many great themes and lessons. I found the writing to be breathtaking, and the quoting opportunities are just about endless. Anyone who has dreams but trouble figuring out what they are going to do next can easily connect to the story. The authentic voices and feelings of the darker sides of teenagers is captured within these pages.
This novel will have you entertained and emotional throughout the entire ride, all the way to the ending - which I thought was the perfect closing spot.
A shorter read, Paradise Squandered holds more content and relevance than the majority of other novels in its genre, and is a breathtaking find.
Bold, brilliant, clever and refreshingly honest, Paradise Squandered is not a novel to miss. Stefansson is able to write to change the reader's mood and thought, and really get them to feel - and I think that is something really amazing. Would highly recommend.