Palo Alto by James Franco

palo-alto_431948Palo Alto
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. These linked stories, stark, vivid, and disturbing, are a compelling portrait of lives on the rough fringes of youth. -Synopsis from Goodreads

Palo Alto has been on my to-read pile for a long time, for almost a year actually. It was a novel recommended to me by one of my coworkers and I was really excited to read it; however, I found this novel very lukewarm. Don’t get me wrong, there were some exceptionally shocking stories and I couldn’t believe they were based off real life individuals from Palo Alto, but the writing was very rough and undeveloped. Most passages either ended abruptly or in sporadic intervals which made the whole book very inconsistent. In all honesty, if I were grading Palo Alto it would be a C at best. With a bit more editing there is a definitely room for improvement.

Aside from the juvenile writing, what I really liked about the novel were the stories themselves and how raw and untouched, at least I hoped, they were. My top two from Palo Alto would be: Chinatown and April. And then there were those stories that were either really (and I mean really really) random or those I had absolutely no idea what was going on; such as Yosemite and Jack-O.

One thing I really do want to mention is many of the stories include kids who were in middle school. Middle school. I mean 12-13 year olds and let me tell you… THEY BE CRAZY.

Movie v Book (I literally watched the movie after finishing the book)
Surprisingly, the movie adaptation of Palo Alto was fairly decent but I felt the movie was very apathetic and lukewarm overall. Not my cup of tea. I will not deny the fact that the movie was true to the book and captured some of the stories exquisitely, but because of the different story lines there was no true apotheosis or climax.

While the book and movie were not a good fit for me, I would recommend this to anyone who appreciates contemporary novels and realistic fiction.

2 ½ Francos out of 5franco


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