April 12, 2004 12:00 PM


by Andrea Seigel


Stella Parrish is 17 and tired. Tired of her suburban California classmates, her clueless foster parents and her loser teachers. She’s bound for Princeton in the fall, but to her it’s “just a Kmart with a nice facade on it.” Maybe she’s jaded because her parents OD’d on cocaine at her 11th birthday party. Or maybe she just sees “how useless perspective is, since it can always change.” Two weeks before graduation, she decides to kill herself—but first, she explains her decision in a journal.

Like a contemporary Catcher in the Rye in knee socks, Panda, by 24-year-old Brown graduate Seigel, morbidly mocks high school rituals, family dysfunction and middle-class pretensions with edgy humor. Stella, the hipster-geek brainiac who uses words like “craptacular” and muses that “it’s the knowing that makes pretending so impossible,” leaves us with a fresh, heartbreaking and tragicomic take on life, interrupted.

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