Twelve-year-old Julian is assigned the task of keeping a journal that details the events that led up to his suspension for bullying.
In an open journal to his English teacher, Julian describes life as a sixth-grader in 1969, roaming his Queens neighborhood with a close-knit group of friends. While the descriptions and dialogue evoke a previous era, the issues Julian faces are timeless topics familiar to adolescents. Initially, Julian minimizes his responsibility for what happened to “Danley Dimmel,” whose real name is Stanley Stimmel. Rather than addressing what occurred, Julian recounts his various mishaps and adventures with his friends. Alternately poignant and comical, Julian’s stories encompass everything from first crushes and first dates to the purpose of his existence. He struggles with the conflicting need to be part of a group, which means coasting in his best friend Lonnie’s wake, and to define himself and understand his unique place in the world. Goldblatt neatly captures that transitional stage between childhood and adolescence, deftly examining the complex dynamics of friendships and skillfully portraying Julian’s evolution toward self-understanding. When Julian ultimately reveals what occurred, he describes it with devastating honesty. Julian’s acknowledgement of his part in the event and his decisive actions at the story’s conclusion illuminate his growing maturity.
Goldblatt’s tale provides a thought-provoking exploration of bullying, personal integrity and self-acceptance. (Historical fiction. 10-14)