Paranoid Parkby Blake Nelson
It was an accident. He didn’t mean to kill the security guard with his skateboard—it was self-defense. But there’s no one to back up his story. No one even knows he was at Paranoid Park. Should he confess, or can he get away with it?/i>
now a major motion picture directed by Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting, and Milk)
It was an accident. He didn’t mean to kill the security guard with his skateboard—it was self-defense. But there’s no one to back up his story. No one even knows he was at Paranoid Park. Should he confess, or can he get away with it? It’s an ethical question no one should have to answer.
Writing more intensely than ever before, Blake Nelson delivers a film noir in book form, complete with interior monologue and dark, psychological drama. This is a riveting look at one boy’s fall into a world of crime, guilt, and fear—and his desperate attempt to get out again.
- Penguin Young Readers Group
- Publication date:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.49(w) x 8.23(h) x 0.47(d)
- Age Range:
- 12 - 17 Years
Read an Excerpt
Paranoid Park. That's where it started. Paranoid Park is a skatepark in downtown Portland. It's located under the Eastside Bridge, down by the old warehouses. It's an underground, "street" park, which means there are no rules, nobody owns it, and you don't have to pay to skate. They say some old-school guys built it years ago, and somehow it's survived all this time.
A lot of the best skaters come there, from California and the East Coast and all over. It's also kind of a street-kid hangout. There's all these stories, like how a skinhead got stabbed there once. That's why they call it Paranoid Park. It has that dangerous, sketchy vibe to it.
My first connection to Paranoid was through Jared Fitch. He's a senior at my school. He's pretty insane, but cool, though, and one of the best skaters at our school. He does stuff like skating off the back of a delivery truck going forty miles an hour while someone videotapes it.
That's how we became friends. I was just getting good at skateboarding, and he would show me stuff. He had videos of things he'd done. He also had other skate videos-- stuff you couldn't find at the local mall. He just knew what was up, so the two of us became friends.
Last summer we skated every day. We'd go downtown to different places, like this old parking garage that was condemned that everyone snuck into and partied in. That's when we really became friends. And other spots, like the famous "Suicide Stairwell" by the river where everybody used to go. Places like that.
Like I said, I wasn't on Jared's level yet, but I was learning. And he liked that I was young and eager. He liked being the teacher and showing me stuff.
Anyway, during the last week of summer, we were downtown one day and Jared said we should check out Paranoid Park. I didn't say anything at first. I had heard of it, of course, but had never thought of going there. I had assumed it was out of my league. But when I said I didn't think I was ready, Jared laughed and said something like: "Nobody's ever ready for Paranoid Park."
So we went. I was nervous, naturally, but I was also kinda psyched. Skating Paranoid. That was an accomplishment. That was something you could tell people about.
* * *
We drove over the Eastside Bridge and circled around underneath it. We parked next to an old brick building. I remember seeing train tracks in the street. They were shiny, like they were still in use. As it turned out, they were.
The park itself was above us, tucked right under the bridge. You could hear the cars and trucks rattling by overhead. The area around there was mostly industrial buildings--old warehouses and parking lots, falling-down fences and stuff. There was one real office building farther down the road, so secretaries would drive by every once in a while. They looked a little scared of the kids hanging out there.
We carried our boards up the dirt hill and ducked through a hole in the chain-link fence. We crawled onto the platform and found ourselves looking out over the whole layout. It was actually smaller than I expected, and also kind of trashed. There were old beer cans around, and garbage and Cholo graffiti. But there was something about it, a kind of aura.
There weren't many people--a couple guys were skating, a dozen or so more stood along the wall to our right. We watched a scrawny older guy in the bowl across from us nail a lip-grind. He wore brown slacks, cut-off at the calf, with black socks and black ragged Vans. He had two huge tattoos on his arms and a big scar across his stomach. His deck was some weird old thing, totally beat to hell, but he killed. He was great.
The other guys there were the same. Not only could everyone skate, they all had their own "look." I had seen hardcore skater guys here and there downtown. But I had never seen them all in one place. This was their place, I realized. The center of the true skate universe. Or at least that's what it felt like to me.
Jared dropped in and rode up the bowl across from us. I got nervous watching him. Like I said, he was one of the best skaters I knew, but that was nothing compared to those guys. I dropped in, too, and went around a couple times and managed not to make an ass of myself. It was sweet, though--the adrenaline rush of it. You were in the big leagues at Paranoid.
* * *
This was the last week of summer vacation. It was also the week Jennifer Hasselbach first called me. She was this girl I'd hooked up with at the beginning of the summer. She had been a camp counselor all July and August, so we hadn't seen each other. But now she was back, and she really wanted to hang out. She called me three times that week.
I wasn't that into it. I mean, she was cute and everything. But when I tried to tell her about Paranoid Park, she didn't get it at all. She was like, "Why would you want to hang out at some dirty place if you could go to Skate City?" Skate City was where all the local Preps skated. It was this lame indoor park behind the mall. If she couldn't see the difference, what was the point?
Another thing, and I guess this is important: All that summer, my parents were fighting and talking about separating, so there was a lot of stress about that. My little brother Henry was throwing up all the time. My mom almost moved out, and then she didn't, and then my dad started staying at my uncle Tommy's. It was a bad time; the whole summer was kind of a disaster. I think this was another reason I hung out more with Jared. His was so "out there," that when you were with him, you forgot about everything else. That was also the appeal of a place like Paranoid Park--you got the feeling no matter how bad your family stuff was, those guys had it worse. Those guys were true outcasts. Some of them probably lived their whole lives on the streets. You had nothing on them.
Anyway, so school started. It seemed fun for about a week and then it sucked as usual. Jared and I just got more into skating. We decided to go to Paranoid again. We planned to go on a Saturday night. That Saturday was September seventeenth.
We had it all planned. I told my mom I was going to sleep over at Jared's so we could go early to the Winter Sports Expo. And since Jared's mom was going to Las Vegas that weekend, we would be free to do whatever. We could stay out all night if we wanted.
The only bad thing was that Jennifer Hasselbach wanted me to come out with her that night. She was being really flirty at school, and hinting that she would do stuff. I was tempted. But I really wanted to check out Paranoid. I figured I could hang out with her another time.
So that was the plan. I would get my mom's car. We would stay at Jared's. And we'd go to Paranoid and see what was up.
But then there was a problem.
All that summer Jared was into this weird college girl, Kelly, who worked at the Coffee People by his house. She was supposedly a sex freak or something, but everyone said she was psycho. Jared had tried to get with her all summer but it never worked out. But then, that night, she called him from her college. She was bored, and she wanted him to come down to Corvallis and party with her. Needless to say, he said yes.
When I got to his house he was packing for the bus trip. I was so pissed. But there was nothing I could do. Jared figured this was a sure thing, and he wasn't going to pass it up.
I sat on his bed and watched him stuff condoms in his pocket. I said how lame it was that he would blow off Paranoid for some weird girl-especially one who'd denied him all summer. He shook his head. He was sure he would get laid. He said I should call Jennifer. She seemed to want me--what was I waiting for? We'd go next weekend.
But I wasn't that into Jennifer. What I really wanted was to go to Paranoid Park.
I drove Jared to the Greyhound station. He kept talking about how laid he was going to get. I didn't say much. I remember feeling sad when I dropped him off. I remember wishing I had better friends.
That was the thing about my high school. The normal people were boring and the few people that were cool, like Jared, were too crazy. They were fun to hang with, but they could never follow through on anything. You could never count on them.
When I dropped Jared at the bus station he gave me the key to his house, so I could still stay there. The house would be empty, so I still had everything covered. I could call Jennifer or play video games or whatever. I still had the whole night to myself.
I pulled out of the bus station and drove around. For the first time, it felt like fall that night; the air smelled like burnt wood and had that dry foggy taste to it. Other high-school kids were out, driving around; you could feel the excitement in the air of a new school year, new fashions, new music on the radio.
Eventually I got bored of driving. I still had my skateboard in the backseat, and I thought about going to Skate City. But that would suck too much. I thought about checking out Suicide Stairwell but remembered they locked it at night. And they'd fenced off the big parking garage. . . .
Then I pulled a U-turn and drove toward Paranoid Park. I don't know what I was thinking. I wasn't ready to go there by myself. I wasn't good enough. But for some reason, that's what I did.
I circled underneath the Eastside Bridge like Jared had done, but it was so dark and deserted I didn't want to park. I didn't want anything to happen to my mom's car. I drove back over the bridge and parked in the nice part of downtown and then rode my skateboard across.
I found a rusty metal staircase that went down from the bridge. As I walked down, I could see the entire park spread before me. It was crowded on a Saturday night: rad skaters, hot chicks, people partying, goofing around, hanging out. I felt my heart pounding in my chest as I jumped down off the stairs. This wasn't some high-school beer party. This was a serious scene.
I came up with a plan: I wouldn't skate at first, I'd sit and watch and not do anything stupid. Maybe I wouldn't skate at all; maybe I'd just scope things out for when Jared came back.
That's what I did. I found an empty spot along the big cement wall and sat on my board like I was waiting for someone. It totally worked. Nobody bothered me and it was totally fun. I could have sat there all night, watching the skaters and the girls and all the stuff going on. The only bad thing was, I started thinking about other things. Like my parents. My dad had supposedly moved out, but he kept calling the house and bugging us and my mom was not handling it well. And my poor brother Henry--he was thirteen, and he would get so worried about stuff he'd throw up his dinner. He was like that. He couldn't handle stress at all.
I also thought about Jennifer. She'd seemed pretty determined for us to be together. I mean, she was nice and everything but did I really want to go out with her? Also, she was a virgin, which meant she'd want to "do it" at some point and then things would get all serious. I mean, worse things could happen. I just wished I liked her more or that we had more in common--
"Hey," said someone behind me.
I turned around. A creepy guy was sitting on the cement wall above me. He was with another guy and a girl. The two guys stared down at me. The girl lit a cigarette.
"You gonna use that board or you just gonna sit on it all night?"
I shook my head. "Nah, I'm waiting for someone."
"Mind if I use it? While you're waiting?"
"I'd rather not."
"What kind is it?"
I told him. He admitted he didn't know much about skateboards and asked me about it. I told him what kind of deck it was, what kind of trucks.
He asked to borrow it again. "Just for five minutes. One time around. C'mon. If I don't come back, you can have the girl," he said.
The two guys laughed but the girl didn't. She was younger than them. They had beer and cigarettes and probably other stuff. The two guys were borderline gutter punks. They were dirty and had that hard look about them. Jared called people like that "Streeters."
I didn't want to lend him my board, but I didn't see how I could avoid it. He must have seen this in my face. He hopped down off the wall. "C'mon, bro, five minutes," he said.
"My friend will be here any minute," I said.
"Bro," he said firmly. "Five minutes. And then I give it back. Scout's honor."
I gave it to him.
He looked it over and took it to the lip. A girl on the other side was waiting and he waved for her to go first. He made a big show of it. "No, after you, I insist," he told her, waving his hand dramatically. He was kind of a character, I realized. He had a theatrical way about him.
He dropped in. He wasn't technically a great skater. All he could do was ride. But he had style. He wound his way around the park, almost falling several times. Other people laughed when they saw him. "Hey, Scratch!" someone called out. Other people whooped and yelled. He was like the local clown or something. But also, people were a little scared of him, you could tell.
Meanwhile, his friends introduced themselves. I don't remember the guy's name. The girl's name was Paisley. The guy asked me if I came around there often because they had never seen me before. I said just one other time. I remember I didn't really want to look at the guy, but I kind of stared at the girl. She was so young--younger than me, maybe fourteen. Scratch and his friend were both older. The whole situation was pretty sketchy.
"Check out Scratch," said the guy. Scratch had lost his balance and was making a big show of it, waving his arms around, sort of mocking the more serious skaters. He really was like a clown.
After exactly five minutes he came back. He shot up the side of the bowl and caught the board with one hand. He gave it back to me.
"Thanks, friend," he said.
"No problem," I said. I noticed he was missing a bottom tooth, right in the front of his mouth.
* * *
Until that moment, I'd been planning my getaway. But once I had my board back I felt safe, or at least safe enough to hang out a little longer. I was curious, I guess, about Scratch and his friends.
We talked. I sat on the wall with them. Scratch and the other guy kept up their banter; they wanted to impress me, I guess. The girl never talked. I kept watching her. She had a homemade tattoo on her wrist and black nail polish and this kind of cave-woman shape to her face. I wondered where she came from, what her family was like, if she even had a family.
Scratch talked the most. He asked me questions about skating stuff, treating me like I was an expert, and always saying how much he loved the philosophy of skateboarding and the rebel nature of it. It was a loner sport, he said. It was like being a samurai but with "boards instead of swords."
I asked him about Paranoid Park, like about the skinhead who got stabbed. He told me the whole story--how the skinhead didn't really get stabbed, and he wasn't really a skinhead, and the whole thing had been wildly exaggerated over the years.
It was fun talking to them. I kept meaning to leave, but I had nowhere else to go, and it was kind of a thrill being there, talking to someone like Scratch. He had lived up and down the West Coast and hopped trains and slept in bus stations and stuff. He said he got in a fight with a cop in San Diego last summer, so he couldn't go there anymore so he was going to crash in Phoenix for the winter and start a band with a friend. It was pretty wild stuff. Especially hopping trains. I always loved trains. I always wanted to hop one.
After a while they ran out of beer. And they needed cigarettes. Scratch said he'd go. Did I have any money?
I figured they would eventually ask for money, so I said I didn't, but then when everyone else had a five, I found a five in my jeans pocket and gave it to them. Scratch asked if I had a car, and I was glad I had left it on the other side of the river. I said I didn't, that I had taken the bus.
Scratch volunteered to walk down the road to a supermarket. It was kind of far, did I want to walk with him?
No. I wanted to hang out. But then the other guy looked at his watch. "Hey the ten-twenty's going to come," he said. "You guys can catch it."
"Hey," Scratch said to me. "Wanna hop a train?"
I looked up at him. I kinda did. "What sort of train?"
"The ten-twenty. It comes right through here every night. We can ride it all the way to Safeway."
They talked me into it. Or I agreed. I don't remember, exactly.
The other guy and the girl offered to watch my board, but I said I would take it with me. Scratch said it would get in the way, but I insisted.
We left Paranoid through the hole in the chain-link fence. I followed Scratch, sliding on my ass down the dirt hill. I watched the back of his stubbly head and hoped I wasn't doing something stupid. He wouldn't rob me, would he? Or take my board? But whatever. I sort of didn't care at that point.
At the bottom of the hill, we dusted ourselves off. That's when I heard the train horn blare. I could feel the rumble of it under my feet.
"That's it!" shouted Scratch and he broke into an excited run. I ran with him, my whole body tingling with anticipation. I couldn't believe I was doing this. I was going to hop a train! Jared would be so jealous. It served him right!
We ran through the old buildings, until we came to the train tracks. The train was really there, it was really coming. The single front headlight shone directly at us.
"Get back," said Scratch when we reached the gravel track bed. "You can't let them see you."
We both ducked behind a loading dock. We crouched there, watching, breathing hard.
The locomotive came even with us. I couldn't believe how big and powerful it looked.
After it passed, Scratch leaned forward. He studied the different cars, watching them pass. Then he picked one and started to jog alongside it.
"Come on, run!" he shouted over the noise.
I clutched my board and dashed after him in the darkness.
* * *
The train didn't seem to be going very fast--until you tried to run alongside it. We both had to sprint to keep up. Scratch ran after a metal ladder on the side of a grain car. He jumped for it, caught it, and pulled himself up until he stood on the lowest rung. He pointed for me to do the same.
I still had my skateboard, which was in the way. But I switched it to my left hand and grabbed the ladder on the next car. Still holding my board, I crawled up enough to swing my feet into the bottom rung.
Scratch gave me a thumbs-up when he saw that. I had proved myself to not be a total idiot.
Now we were on the train. We were riding it. Scratch yelled stuff to me over the noise. He said the train went another quarter mile or so to a train yard. We'd jump off there and walk to Safeway.
I was so psyched. I couldn't believe I was riding a train. I imagined telling all my friends, even telling Jennifer. I secured my skateboard in the rungs of the ladder and hung out as far as I could. Scratch was doing the same. He was a real hobo. The whole thing was so awesome. I wondered if we could ride it the other direction too. Maybe you could ride it all the way across town. Unfortunately, after a couple minutes, the train started to slow down. Scratch shouted that we should hop off, the trainyard was coming up.
I regretted my little ride had come to an end. But I had done it. I had hopped a train! I lingered there for a moment, hanging out as far as I could.
Then Scratch began waving frantically at me. I couldn't tell what he was saying. At the same time, he wriggled farther up his ladder and tried to squeeze himself behind it. He looked like he was trying to hide. I didn't understand.
Then I saw the car.
There was a private security car parked on the gravel up ahead. It faced the train, its headlights shining directly onto the freight cars as they passed. Standing beside it was a man in a security uniform. He had black gloves on and a black nightstick in his hands.
Meet the Author
Blake grew up in Portland, Oregon.
His first love was books but he spent several years in his teens and twenties playing in bands.
Blake's first writing job was at Details magazine, where he wrote short humor pieces on the slacker lifestyle. His fiction remained unpublished until Sassy Magazine (cool girl magazine from the 90s) began publishing excerpts from his first novel.
These excerpts generated enough response to get his first novel GIRL published by Simon and Schuster. GIRL (1994) has since been translated into six foreign languages and was made into a feature film.
After GIRL, Blake published two more adult novels, EXILE (1997) and USER (2001). In 2003 he decided to try a Young Adult novel, (a book specifically for teens) and wrote THE NEW RULES OF HIGH SCHOOL. Since then he has published five YA novels, NEW RULES, ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR, PROM ANONYMOUS, GENDER BLENDER, and PARANOID PARK.
His books have won numerous awards and continue to be translated around the world. A TV movie for GENDER BLENDER is currently in development at Nickelodeon. And PARANOID PARK, is being made into a film by Gus Van Sant and MK2 Productions.
Blake Nelson currently lives with his wife in Brooklyn, NY.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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A great read for boys who like something gritty and thought provoking. This novel holds nothing back as it follows an unnamed narrator through the hell of an accidental murder. The movie is great too!
I'm sorry, but I have to go. Goodnight, Bree.
Complete with rails, hubbas, half-pipes, quarter-pipes, wedges, and those old 1950's kidney bean shaped pools! Shred the he<_>ll off those spots and have fun!
Great read and also very quick
paranoid park is about a guy who is kinda popular and his friend jared ditches him to go to a collage with a girl he has tried to hook up with all summer. so jared leaves him his mom house because his mom leaves to los vegas. so the boy go to paranoid park by himself and then a guy behind him called Scratch. then they got in trouble by jumping a train and then, they get a security guard cut in half. the boy starts to panic and gets in tons of trouble.then a girl called jennifer likes him then they start to ask him out. but he doesnt like her anymore. he writes a letter to a girl who had a mager cruse on him for a long time untile she got in high school. and when she stoped liking her he startes to like her. but she doesnt know it until she gives it to her. they usually bump into alot because she goes to alot of places with her friends then she him . then she usually goes with him. at th eend of the the movie he gives her the whole story about what had happen in the paranoid park. he tells her that he kinda has a crush on her. THE END!! you have to read the book to her the whole story. it a great book.
If you dare visit Paranoid Park in Portland, Oregon, you will find the Streeters and the Preps. In Blake Nelson's new novel, PARANOID PARK, the reader enters the dark side of the skate park world along with the main character, who happens to be one of the Preps.
Paranoid Park is the nickname for an old skate park being used by the less desirable Streeters. While visiting the park, the main character is dared to jump a train car with one of the Streeters. When they are discovered by a security guard, an unfortunate "accident" causes the horrific death of the guard. The Streeter takes off, leaving the Prep with the guard's remains and the decision of what to do next.
What should he do? Tell the police, tell his parents, tell a friend? He decides to keep the truth to himself, but mixed in with his parents' impending divorce, his girlfriend issues, plus school and grades, he may have more than he can deal with.
Nelson's PARANOID PARK is described as a psychological thriller, and I couldn't agree more. If you are a fan of getting into the mind of the characters, this is just the book for you. With its attention-grabbing title and its cool skateboard cover, it will be flying off young adult shelves.
this book is great as long with gender blender keep up the good work dont stop writing books!
at the begining i thought it would be a book about a regular old tennager that had everything but it didn't turn out that way. It has an amazing twist to it. I would recommend this to the ages 12-16.
I never really liked reading, i got this book as a gift and i needed to read something for school so i picked this up. It seemed as if the climax was in the first chapter but it kept that pace throughout the whold book. The ending was a bit strange but really left me thinking. This is by far the best book ever.
I read an arc on this because it's the big buzz here in Portlant (Gus Van Sant is making the film). It is not a thriller as advertised it is more a . . . very close look what it's like in the brain of a teenage boy, who is seriously stressing. I loved it. it was like reading The Stranger but with skateboarders listening to punk rock. This is a really different, unique kind of book. Not for everyone but maybe a classic in some way.
"Paranoid Park" is about a teen who enjoys skateboarding and pretty much that of any normal kid his age. There's a skatepark downtown that people refer to as "Paranoid Park" that is notorious for thugs and 'streeters'. Despite the rumors of a stabbing there, the main character and his friend Jared decide to drive into downtown and skate it anyway. After doing so once, the main character begins to grow ever so braver and when his friend Jared suddenly plans an urgent trip for some college, he decides to go by himself and skate it again. At first, he decided to lay low and pretend he was waiting for someone but a random kid nicknamed Scratch began to talk to him. After a while, the two decide to hop a train and head into town, in hopes of finding a supermarket but these events end up causing an unexpected murder. Paranoid Park by Blake Nelson is a great book for anyone who is interested in skating and even for people who aren't at all. This book emphasizes what teen's deal with on a day to day basis along with some serious issues such as murder and the confusion and feeling of guilt and helplessness that it leads to. The book has many different sections within the chapters that speed up the pace of the story, keeping you interested and on edge the entire time. In some parts, the book was a bit slow as it over expressed the character's emotions and thoughts but in the end it turned out to be helpful in unraveling the plot of the overall story and in understanding what exactly the character was feeling about all the things that were occurring in his life. Overall, I give it an 8/10. It was a fun read and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good novel.
The book Paranoid Park, is almost like a modern day, skater version of the S.E. Hinton classic, The Outsiders. It follows a 16 year old skater, who is left unnamed, that is extremely "paranoid" throughout the book, after having accidentally killed a security guard near a local skate park. The main character in the book seems to be a downer on life and somewhat of a slacker. Though it could just be his character type, i fell that the author, Blake Nelson, should have developed more on his character. What Nelson does very well though is tell the story. The story is told throughout letters to an unknown person, until we find out the person`s identity at the end of the book. The way Nelson tells the story and the realistic aspects of being a teenager makes it a relatable and good read for teens. Though there is not that much of a big event that happens in the book, besides the security guard getting killed in the beginning of the book,Nelson still is able to keep the readers attention. Besides, the little, character development issues in the book, I would strongly recommend this to teens and even adults.
Picking up the book I didn't expect much. Begining to read it I was excited. Then I got very upset. It wasn't written all to great, but it was interesting and written honestly. But at all the parts that would make it cool, it avioided it to take a 'twist' but it was a bad twist, nothing to cool really. Also, I was very surprised. The book wasn't realistic, it was full of unrealistic teen sex themes. It didn't seem to good that way. Some people will love it though.