4 out of 4 stars
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Parkland: The Untold Story, written by D.P. Conway, is a balanced, well-written, and gripping thriller based on actual events. It tells the story of a tormented and violent kid named Nikolas Cruz, whose adoption by an older couple happens in strange circumstances. After struggling through his troublesome childhood and teenage years, he ends up committing a heinous crime – a terrible high school shooting.
The story revolves around the archetypical theme of the battle between good and evil. Throughout the novel, virtuous guardian angels combat dark, malignant creatures. The protagonist hears these demons’ voices telling him to commit atrocious deeds, and he obeys them. Much to the despair of his mother Lynda, Nikolas’ aggressive personality gets increasingly worse after he becomes a teenager. The gravity and dreadfulness of his mental state and his misdeeds quickly escalate, and he gets expelled from high school.
I found the book to be a positive surprise. The author skillfully blends fascinating elements. There is fantasy, with other-worldly realms, angels, and demons; There are also realistic topics such as teenage depression, self-mutilation, and gun violence. I enjoyed how the erudite theological and historical references to Christianity get woven into the plot. I found Father Ricardo’s quest to recover ancient relics and use them to exorcise Nikolas’ demons fascinating. The allusions to the biblical story of John the Baptist were well developed.
In my opinion, the real thrill of the novel lies in the question of how the protagonist's predicament abominably impacted everyone around him. Conway masterfully portrayed the devastating effect Nikolas had on his family and neighbors, for instance. The author's writing style is witty and elaborate, with subtle yet incisive criticism of how authorities mishandled warning signs and failed to prevent an announced tragedy.
If I had to mention a negative aspect, I would say the book progresses a bit slowly in the beginning. I felt that the description of the protagonist’s childhood could have been more concise. There were quite a few episodes of childish brawls between Nikolas and his brother Zachary that felt unnecessary and repetitive. But this did not diminish the novel’s merit.
Lastly, I rate the book 4 out of 4 stars. Overall, it was a fast and entertaining read. The editing seemed clean and professional, with no errors to point out. The story flows smoothly and elegantly, and I think it would make a great movie. I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of thrillers. Readers who are put off by violence might not like it.
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