A fiercely vivid collection of stories about troubled California teenagers and misfits - violent and harrowing, from the astonishingly talented actor and artist James Franco.
Palo Alto is the debut of a surprising and powerful new literary voice. Written with an immediate sense of place - claustrophobic and ominous - James Franco's collection traces the lives of an extended group of teenagers as they experiment with vices of all kinds, struggle with their families and one another, and succumb to self-destructive, often heartless nihilism.
In "Lockheed" a young woman's summer - spent working a dull internship - is suddenly upended by a spectacular incident of violence at a house party. In "American History" a high-school freshman attempts to impress a girl during a classroom skit with a realistic portrayal of a slave owner, only to have his feigned bigotry avenged. In "I Could Kill Someone" a lonely teenager buys a gun with the aim of killing his high-school tormentor, but begins to wonder about his bully's own inner life.
These linked stories, stark, vivid, and disturbing, are a compelling portrait of lives on the rough fringes of youth.
"It's the harsh humor that surprises in these stories - that and the observations that show James Franco to be an original and simpatico voice finely tuned to the territory. These quotable, unsettling stories stay with you; they seem to change the ions in a room." (Amy Hempel)
"Franco's talent is unmistakable, his ambition profound. He has taken the twin subjects of suburban Palo Alto and American adolescence and made them as scary and true as they must be. This is a book to be inhaled more than once, with delight and admiration, with unease and pure enjoyment. As a writer, he's here to stay." (Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story)
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Maybe. It was compelling to me because I grew up in the SF Bay Area it brought me back to how difficult and confusing it was at that age. It is a very raw look at like in suburbia where parents are too busy, too weak or too much in denial to have an in-depth relationship with their children and how lost and hopeless kids can become with no direction and then thrown in the shark tank that is American High School.
The characters were confusing and depressed for the most part. I feel sorry for all of them and to some extent feel sorry for who I was at that age. So my favorite character is me...
The realization that the meek don't inherit the earth.
April because of the way she was just persuaded into the molestation of her coach. That sort of thing is so much more common than anyone can imagine. Its horrifying.
I am at the same time depressed and refreshed for having been reminded of those years and then having an opportunity to share those things in the company of others
through his book. Franco wanted to connect an older generation with a newer one and he did it perfectly. He crossed a couple of decades to reveal the pain we share of being young, entitled, and confused by the world we live in where apathy rules.
- Deana Davidson
A Pleasant Surprise