Part satire of college life circa 2011 and part serious exploration of art's fundamental unreality, Portrait of Sebastian Khan is a humorous coming-of-age novel about a charismatic but emotionally stunted Muslim American Don Draper, who wins as many hearts as he breaks.
The portrait of Sebastian Khan that emerges in Rashid’s debut is a humorous, edgy early-twentysomething coming-of-age, a character who will recall, for some readers, Charles Highway of Martin Amis’s The Rachel Papers. Told in an accessible third person and, at times, cutting nearly to the point of drawing blood, this is a book you can’t help but like from its first page.
Rashid gives us the chance to look at millennials in a different light ... Though it is easy to get lost in the details of the paintings and beautiful youth engrained into the pages, Rashid uses Khan’s experiences to weave in life lessons. There are many parenthetical asides that offer background information without interrupting from the action, creating an atmosphere where the reader is included ... Rashid effortlessly weaves in comedic interludes, breaking up the denser descriptions fluidly.
One of the most striking qualities of Aatif Rashid’s debut novel, Portrait of Sebastian Khan, is its ability to lay bare misunderstanding, in the moment it appears. This is not just about confusion, although many characters experience bewilderment throughout the narrative, but about willful misunderstanding or misinterpretation... [a] startling coming of age story ... Sebastian is a delicious protagonist (something I’m sure he would love to hear). Often a jerk, often pretentious or smug, always quick-thinking and very intelligent — if persuaded of his own beliefs — it is easy to enjoy judging him. It is also easy to feel for him.