Goldblatt’s sequel to Twerp (2013) chronicles the momentous events of Julian’s seventh-grade year.
A friend’s devastating illness and a false accusation of vandalism upend Julian’s life. His friend Quentin’s diagnosis of a brain tumor occurs at a pivotal moment, just as he is preparing for his bar mitzvah. Julian seeks guidance from his rabbi about his struggles to comprehend life, heaven and God. Their conversations address the uncertainty and inequity of life’s fortunes and misfortunes. Goldblatt movingly depicts the steadfast friendship enjoyed by Julian’s group of pals as they support Quentin, deftly painting the small moments. In one, when the ailing Quentin asks to join in on a game of tag, it results in the spontaneous creation of “Piggyback Tag,” perfectly capturing the solidarity and joy of true friendships. Interwoven with his anxiety over Quentin’s illness is Julian’s evolving awareness that his past will always be a part of his present. After being blamed for vandalizing a student’s artwork, Julian must write an essay on citizenship for his principal. Although he initially resists, Julian’s essay becomes a distillation of his experiences, reflecting his growing understanding of life’s complexities. When Julian discovers a seemingly unbearable truth, he must summon the resolve to weather the trials life may deliver.
Goldblatt’s outstanding tale ponders a timeless, universal dilemma as a remarkable boy seeks to reconcile the heartbreak and uplift that punctuate his life. (Fiction. 11-14)