Books by Julian F. Thompson

HARD TIME by Julian F. Thompson
Released: Nov. 1, 2003

A "hard time" is what Thompson gives the grown-ups in this droll tale of two teenagers discovering that no good deed goes unpunished. Thanks to a story in her high school's literary magazine featuring a dead teacher, Annie Ireland finds herself sentenced to five days in the local lockup as an "example," then bundled off to a wilderness camp for hard-core offenders, and ultimately locked up in an underground behavior-mod cell. Fortunately, she has two loyal, if distinctly unconventional, allies: best friend Nemo Skank, nicknamed Arby, for "Roach Boy" (don't ask); and Pantagruel Primo, a gnome temporarily inhabiting the body of a baby doll assigned to Annie's care in Life Skills class. As usual, the author contrasts decent, levelheaded teens with savagely caricatured adults, meanwhile using the former (plus, in this case, Primo) as mouthpieces to dispense commonsense advice about coping with the perils of adolescence. Thanks to a wacky cast and situations that sometimes take an ominous turn, that advice never turns over-earnest—and Annie and Arby, a likable couple if ever there was one, come through it all triumphantly, wiser but not at all sadder. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
TERRY AND THE PIRATES by Julian F. Thompson
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

This latest from the author of The Grounding of Group 6 is a confusing jumble—hard to follow and based on an unlikely premise. Terry is 16 when her mother suddenly announces she has decided to send Terry away to boarding school. In response, Terry decides to stow away on the yacht of a rich older man, Maitland Crane. Upon breaking into the boat, she discovers that Maitland's teenage son Mick is stealing the yacht so he, too, can run away. What follows is an unbelievable series of events, culminating in Terry and Mick finding a lost pirate treasure. In between, the two are the victims of a pirate kidnapping, complete with peg-legged, parrot-toting, earring-wearing, "walk the plank" pirates, a man-eating Komodo Dragon, and an unmapped island hideout. Initially, Terry appears to be a strong female character, but she is really as helpless as so many girls in current books, allowing Mick to make the escape plans, while she uses her feminine wiles to distract the pirates. Mick is an odd character, claiming he was a French marquis in a past life and slipping into that persona frequently, another hard-to-follow device. Written in a flip, choppy style that seems aimed at emulating the voice and thoughts of a teenage girl, the frequent asides rapidly become annoying. And Terry's ruminations are peppered with sexist and racist comments as well. One passage has Mick searching the island for an escape, while Terry stays behind thinking to herself, "The hardworking man of the house was off to work before she'd even made it out of bed!" Another passage finds the pirates calling Terry a "princess." Terry wonders if they "thought that was Jewish." Comments like these, combined with shallow characters, a weak premise, and outlandish situations make this an unappealing book in any case. (Fiction. YA) Read full book review >
GHOST STORY by Julian F. Thompson
Released: April 1, 1997

Thompson (The Trials of Molly Sheldon, 1995, etc.) shoehorns a novel-sized cast into a short story's worth of plot in this wry tale of a teenager, a pornographer, and a ghost. Anna isn't unhappy that her parents have chosen to move away from a New York suburb to be innkeepers in a small Vermont town, but she is lonely—until the ghost of Roxy Cray, a serving girl who died of a botched abortion in 1818, appears. Their relationship is an unusual one from the beginning; Roxy, who can be solid or invisible at will, helps Anna with housekeeping chores while Anna, after giving her new friend clothes and a makeover, calmly decides that it doesn't matter whether she's imaginary or not. It starts to matter only when Tony, a photographer, after glibly convincing Anna to take off her clothes for some shots, is pushed from a cliff. A witness says that Anna did it. All Anna remembers is hearing him shout as she hid behind a rock. Was it Roxy, or is Anna editing her memory? Thompson adopts a casual, chatty tone that robs the uglier revelations of much of their shock value, and Anna seems far too gullible, but the ghost, a bevy of unconventional guests, and a budding romance in a subplot will keep readers awake. Light fare, with some cautionary undercurrents. (Fiction. 10-13) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

This savage diatribe against would-be book and film censors contains little of the wit or engaging intellectual discourse that animates most novels by Thompson (Philo Fortune's Awesome Journey to His Comfort Zone, p. 641, etc.). To Ira Sheldons Vermont general store and fake antiques emporium comes busloads of picketers from Parents Opposing Obscene Books And Rental Films (POOBARF). Their nonviolent but annoying antics send Ira off to organize a counter demonstration. Narrating is Iras daughter, Molly, who prattles on about small, generally insignificant details and delivers lectures, thinly disguised as conversations, on Constitutional rights and censorship. Not content to heap scorn on the protesters, Thompson villifies them: POOBARFs three local members put Molly on trial as a witch. In effect, the author trivializes the issues he addresses and festoons the plot with loose ends and tangential revelations (e.g., Molly's boyfriend turns out to be an abused child). For better treatments of the subject, check out Stephanie Tolans Save Halloween (1993) or Kathryn Laskys Memoirs of a Bookbat (1994), both of which examine clashing values in American small towns with—if not sympathy—a modicum of respect for both sides. (Fiction. 11- 15) Read full book review >
THE FLING by Julian F. Thompson
Released: May 1, 1994

Life imitates art in this latest from the author of several clever teen novels (Herb Seasoning, 1990). High school junior and aspiring author Felicia Gordon discovers that incidents in a short story she's writing are anticipating, loosely but definitely, real events. Having described a character based on her friend Allison being led to a sanctuary for young people, Felicia learns that Allison has in fact moved in with older neighbor Kate Mycroft. Al invites Felicia to join her; on arrival she finds two young men in residence—reclusive, wild-looking David Mycroft, who has scars on his wrists, and rich, hunky classmate Malcolm. The ensuing idyll has a Shakespearean air; David and Al sneak out for midnight skinny-dipping, Malcolm and Felicia make out in a garden maze, and the mystery of who David actually is deepens as he and Kate deliver conflicting stories about his scars. Thompson's intelligent cast, frequent literary references (including some oblique ones to his own books), and witty wordplay (``I kept thinking `terra firma' as we ground ourselves against each other,'' Felicia writes) give the tale an ironic, cerebral tone that's well matched to the plot's comic turns but no preparation for the abrupt climax. The finish Felicia pens (her two main characters chuck the men and depart from Sanctuary with a large, lovable dog) seems truer to the rest of the story. An ambiguous, rather dark comedy. (Fiction. YA) Read full book review >
SHEPHERD by Julian F. Thompson
Released: Nov. 1, 1993

High-school senior Shepherd Catlett—good student, good friend, good son—has a special mission. Since he's the only one who can hear the words ``save her life'' in the background of Final Refuge song ``Steam It Open,'' he assumes he's meant to rescue freshman Mary Sutherland, both from doing poorly in Spanish 1 and from the wild crowd she's drawn to. Lovestruck and always inclined to do the right thing, Shep ignores best friend Tara Garza's warning that Mary is in over her head, as well as his own suspicion that he's being used to present a respectable front to Mary's mother. In a brilliantly rendered scene, he crashes a toga party where drinking and sex are in full swing, only to be rejected by Mary, beaten up, and tossed out. Withdrawing into himself, Shep leaves rescuing Mary in Tara's able hands. The novel is marred by a far-fetched final scene when a school assembly turns into a mock shootout between a student and an abusive teacher—an incident that nevertheless provides the vehicle for Shep to ``save'' both girls and regain his own self respect. Thompson (Simon Pure, 1987, etc.) assumes an authentic teenage voice—in turn witty, self-deprecating, and profane—that's guaranteed to involve readers in Shep's crisis of love, self-doubt, and disillusion. (Fiction 12+) Read full book review >
GYPSYWORLD by Julian F. Thompson
Released: Sept. 1, 1992

In a thinly disguised ecological diatribe, five urban teenagers are kidnapped and taken to a remote (out of this world, actually, though that's not revealed till much later) utopian community as test cases: Can they reform the way they treat their planet and each other? How they are supposed to do this remains a mystery; their situation is not explained to them until well into the story, and, except for their closemouthed captors, they are kept in isolation. The young people escape and spend several days wandering through semicultivated ``agroforest'' before being recaptured, meanwhile developing a sense of group solidarity and listening to a ``gypsy'' who serves as the author's mouthpiece. Thompson devotes much more attention to this group sense than to individual personalities, internal logic, or niceties of background detail; he may get readers to wonder what they would do if called on to represent all of humanity, but presents his alternative society in the vaguest terms and offers his characters no compelling reasons to alter their behavior. In the end, given a chance to choose an escape vehicle, they select bicycles rather than an automobile—which earns them an invitation to stay in Gypsyworld. An overearnest effort, lacking the play of ideas and comic touches of the author's Goofbang Value Daze (1989) and Herb Seasoning (1990). (Fiction. 12-18) Read full book review >
GOOFBANG VALUE DAZE by Julian F. Thompson
Released: April 1, 1989

A sane, if slightly confused, teen-ager outfaces a group of adult ideologues—in a now funny, now bittersweet novel. "All the world's high school," says Gabe Podesta to his stunningly beautiful girlfriend Dori Fabb—and, indeed, at Dustin High he encounters as many assaults on his courage, intellect, and values, and as wide a variety of peers and adults—from sensible to biscuit-brained—as the outside world might offer. All this flavors a notably quirky plot: the town of Dustin has built a giant dome to keep the weather out, and some people have been affected strangely. Dori's father is convinced that the whole town is on the road to totalitarianism; a newly elected triumvirate of school directors, in the name of "values" and "order," enact harshly repressive rules of behavior, as well as surreptitiously tack drug tests onto a supposedly confidential schoolwide test for AIDS. Still, Gabe's mother suggests that the right-wingers have been getting more press attention than real support. Meanwhile, Thompson energetically slices into the "ends justify means" mentality; and the directors are finally discredited, thanks largely to Gabe and his gleefully liberal parents. However, this triumph is tempered by violence and tragedy: Gabe is beaten by overzealous National Guardsmen, and later Dori's father, trying to "save" Dustin, falls from the dome and is killed. As in Band of Angels, Thompson offers a lot of talk—and action—on traditional YA topics (rights, freedom, responsibility). An issue-oriented story, then, thought-provoking if not always believable. Read full book review >