Quicksand is one of those stories that you will find yourself talking about to your reading friends. It will make you think and worry about the pressures we put on young adults, particularly on young women. You will ask kind of people expect a high school junior to save her boyfriend when he is breaking down? There’s a lot of “what the hell?” in this book, yet it feels so true.
Maja is on trial and bit by bit, the layers of anger and confusion are peeled back and we learn more and more about what happened. She is accused of inciting and collaborating with her boyfriend in a high school mass murder. She did shoot two people. How responsible is she, though?
Maja is a junior in an elite high school in a wealthy suburb. Her parents are wealthy, millionaire-wealthy, not billionaire wealthy. However Sebastian, the son of a famous billionaire, has been held back a year and is her class. They fall in love and it’s all very exciting and wonderful at first what with a private cruise on the Mediterranean, access to elite parties and the glamour of extreme wealth. Money does not buy happiness, though, and it does not buy love. Sebastian is a troubled young man whose father, Claes, does not love him and probably never has.
When Maja breaks it off with Sebastian, he attempts suicide and Maja goes to him in the hospital at the request of his father. His father, her parents, her teachers, her friends, everyone it seems expects her to fix Sebastian. That’s what I mean by “what the hell?” Who puts that kind of pressure on such a young girl? There is some extreme parental and educational malpractice happening here, most out of a desire to make a billionaire happy, I think.
I liked Quicksand. I liked Maja, even though she is on trial for killing her best friend Amanda and Sebastian. She’s smart. She is wracked with guilt, though I wonder how much guilt she should bear. Things are not the way they seem and yes, as the story progresses we learn more about how the mass murder took place, what her role in it was, and why she feels guilt.
Quicksand is a book about today’s world with today’s conflicts, the rampant inequality that is only getting worse as the richest pay a smaller and smaller share in taxes, as safety nets are strained by increased demands from migration and decreased revenues as the wealthy become exempted from taxation. Maja and Sebastian’s class reflects those divisions, with immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East confronted by Sebastian’s xenophobic bigotry. There is no high school bubble. These students are not outside the world, but very much in it, and that makes this a much more interesting story.
Nonetheless, in the end, I am left with a very bewildered feeling of what were they thinking? And by they, I mean the adults in the room. Why did her parents continue to urge Maja to be with Sebastian even though they had to know he was using drugs and losing his grip. Did being able to brag “my daughter is dating the richest man in Sweden’s son” mean more to them than their daughter? The story is told by Maja in the first person, she loves her parents very much. She’s more forgiving than I am. Perhaps it is part of Giolito’s artistry that we don’t understand.
Quicksand will be released March 7, 2017. I received an electronic copy from the publisher through Edelweiss.