Title: Paradise Squandered
Author: Alex Stefansson
Format: Paperback and eBook
Genre: Coming of Age
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About the Book:
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.
Engrossing and engaging, told in first person, this coming of age story brings a sense of the known and unknown to the reader as it progresses. Andrew is not particularly lovable from this perspective, nor sympathetic, in fact I was almost hoping for something to shake him; for a snap judgment to be wrong, for some grey to invade his very black and white world.
Adding to the difficulty is the often lamented immaturity that is in juxtaposition from his sarcastic and often spot on depictions of people and events that surround him. While coming of age stories are usually angst filled and stereotypical: Stefansson’s skill with the written word provides a sense of a real teenager as they navigate the world between childhood and adulthood. I won’t make comparisons to other writers, as many have: for I think that this author managed to set his own path, with a book that is eminently readable and worth every second.
What you won’t get is a happy ending with roses and bunnies: but you will see his growth and be left with a story that gives you some insight, and plenty of food for thought.
I received an eBook from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
About the Author:
Alex Stefansson (born 1984 in Seattle, Washington) is an American writer of literary fiction. He grew up in the suburbs of Seattle and eventually attended Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. He foolishly chose the wrong major and is now just scraping by as a writer.
Stefansson’s writing is often influenced by sleep deprivation and too much caffeine. He currently resides in Tacoma, Washington.