Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Review: 'Quicksand' by Malin Persson Giolito


Eighteen-year-old Maya Norberg is the only survivor of a shooting in her classroom at the Djursholm Upper Secondary School. She is a bright and sensitive young woman but, like so many of her wealthy and entitled friends, has made poor choices. She is paying a high price for her faulty judgment, since Maya is on trial for complicity and incitement to violence. Her boyfriend, Sebastian Fagerman, son of one of Sweden's wealthiest businessmen, brought a small arsenal to his classroom and opened fire. The prosecutor insists that the Sebastian and Maya planned and carried out the massacre together. Although she is being held in detention and has plenty of time to brood, at least Maya has Peder Sander, one of Sweden's top lawyers, in her corner. He will argue that Sebastian was a troubled and angry individual who was bullied by his sadistic father. The boy was a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode.

Maya reveals every facet of her complex personality. She is a brilliant student who adores her younger sister, Lina, tolerates her parents, and was flattered to be singled out by the handsome and charismatic Sebastian. It was only later that Maya discovered that Sebastian had a dark and twisted side, fueled by his father's incessant abuse. "Quicksand," by Malin Persson Giolito, translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles, shows how and why teenagers go off the rails.

Although it is a bit too long, "Quicksand" is a generally well-written legal thriller and incisive character study. The author indicts a society that gives its wealthiest and most prominent members too much license to do as they wish. In addition, Persson skewers journalists who feed on the misery of others; sheds light on the imperfections of Sweden's criminal justice system; and disparages parents who abdicate their responsibility to serve as role models for their children. Maya is an eloquent storyteller--snarky, clever, and impatient with hypocrites. Most of all, she is tough on herself. She wishes that she had faced reality before everything spiraled out of control.



Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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