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Like the Red Panda


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This debut should not be mistaken for a typical story about an angst-ridden suburban teenager struggling to comprehend the world. Seigel deftly turns this genre on its head, giving us the formidable Stella Parrish, one of the most startling narrators to come down the fiction pike in a while. Stella's parents died from a drug overdose at her swanky 11th birthday party in California, leaving Stella (now 17) to live with detached foster parents Simon and Shana. Taking place in the two weeks before graduation, the novel acts as Stella's mental journal and is saturated with quietly evoked observations and characters, among them Stella's cantankerous grandfather, who continually tries to kill himself, and Stella's pseudo-boyfriend, Daniel, with whom she desperately fumbles toward love. Through penetrating vernacular, Stella speaks as an inquisitive, funny, alienated young woman who is unsure whether a future at Princeton or an AP test or life itself means anything. The naturalness of Seigel's prose-only the title's metaphor seems forced-makes the ending that much more devastating. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/03.]-Prudence Peiffer, Cambridge, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Astute, confident and keenly articulated, 24-year-old Seigel's debut about the life and times of an intelligent, disaffected teen is bleak but sharply humorous, and even redemptive. It's the last two weeks of high school for Stella Parrish, whose parents died of a heroin overdose when she was 11; at 17 she is trying to decide between Princeton and oblivion. Despite her smarts and sense of humor, Stella has few friends, a strained relationship with her dazed, slightly inept foster parents and what most teachers would call a bad attitude. Through her sharp, perceptive first-person narration, she offers a Holdenesque view of her upper-middle-class Orange County, Calif., town and all its hypocrisy, the stupidities faced in classrooms and the absurdity of senior year rituals. About a class trip to the zoo, she scoffs, "Yesterday... the kids were spitting on the walls and flicking off people they couldn't wait to get away from, and today they're on the bus with the majority of their graduating class. Even the rebels show up...." In between, Stella visits her nihilistic grandfather, who entertains her with the problems of his own life and plots ways to do himself in. Thick with believable character and detail, though somewhat thin on dramatic momentum, Seigel's novel is a keen portrait of young American angst and all its ironic posturing. The result veers between an earnest critique of the Columbine era and Heathers-like parody, which leaves its conclusion half tragedy, half punch line. Agent, Cressida Connelly. (Apr.) Forecast: This may attract more teen readers than adults, and should convince even the most jaded with its compelling blend of cynicism and innocence. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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