Julian Twerski is a normal 12 year old boy growing up in Manhattan in the 1960's. Over winter break he and his friends did a terrible thing. After a one week suspension from school, Julian made a deal with his English teacher to keep a journal and write about the incident in exchange for not completing a Shakespeare project.
This book is the result.
Julian writes thoughtfully about killing a pigeon, harassing a student teacher, causing a car accident, writing a love letter (with disastrous results) and learning to deal with not being the fastest person at school. He avoids the event that got him into this situation in the first place.
Julian and his friends; Quick Quentin, Shlomo Shlomo, Eric the Red, Howie Wartnose and Lonnie, are heartwrenchingly real. So are the girls; Amelia, his sister, Beverley and Jillian. I didn't like them all, but I swear I went to school with people just like them. I suspect students today will find themselves and their friends here as well.
This book is about bullying - how we can cause so much damage to others without really meaning to, how small acts of manipulation and cruelty can become larger ones.
I loved the way Goldblatt captured the time and place of Manhatten in the 1960's.
What I loved most was seeing Julian mature as he comes to realize that while things can't be undone, it doesn't mean that nothing can be done.
I will definitely recommend this book to students in grade 4 and up.
When I can get it in paperback it will make a great book for literature circles.