Thursday, February 2, 2012

High School Pick: This One Time With Julia

This One Time With Julia
by David Lampson
256 pages

Available February 2, 2012

Poignant, puzzling, and sometimes disturbingly painful, This One Time With Julia tells the sad tale of Joe, twin brother of Alvin and younger brother of Marcus. Joe is the slow brother and Alvin has always preferred him that way. The boys were orphaned young and older brother Marcus found a long lost uncle who would sign the proper papers and become their guardian. The boys basically parented themselves with Alvin acting as Joe's "parent." He loves the fact that Joe will believe anything that you tell him and that he accepts everything at face value. If Alvin tells him only to eat hamburgers, he does. In fact, Joe only eats hamburgers and guacamole his whole life.

Alvin shows up out of the blue--he had run off to Tennessee with a hot new girlfriend but now he's back in L.A. He asks Joe to meet him at a restaurant. He shows Joe a bag of money he has and tells him that he wants to disappear and sail around the world. He asks Joe to check the motel parking lot and to tell him if anyone is around. Joe spots a man sitting in a car, but forgets to tell Alvin. The next day, Joe is disappointed that Alvin has vanished and left to sail around the world without him. The hotel manager tells Joe to get rid of the girl who is hanging out waiting for Alvin. Enter Julia, the girlfriend from Tennessee.

Joe makes Julia laugh and he begins falling in love with her; of course, Joe is gullible, has no background in relationships, and is naive; Julia seems to actually like Joe's company and she takes him back home to meet her brother Houston who offers him a job. Joe stays in Tennessee working for Houston and living with Julia; he meets their strange mother who tells him all sorts of deep, dark, demented family secrets: that Julia's father is a criminal, that Houston is their adopted son, that Houston is in love with his sister Julia.

Joe begins to realize that his brother Alvin didn't run away to sail around the world; he remembers seeing the man in the car at the motel, and realizes that he should have told Alvin about him. As the mystery unravels, Joe comes to the conclusion that Julia is not in love with him and that Houston is using him to keep tabs on him. Where is Alvin anyway?

A shocking and explosive ending leaves the reader wondering what will happen to Joe--he is abandoned, alone, and penniless. This is not a "feel good" ending.

Recommended grades 9-up. The publisher says ages 12 and up, grades 7-up, but Julia and Joe are sleeping together, there are at least two murders, and terrible family secrets; I say high school only.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

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