The following review may contain spoilers.
Most people know of James Franco from many of his films, such as Spiderman, Pineapple Express and the highly controversial movie, Spring Breakers. Franco has added another accomplishment to his long list of actor, poet and filmmaker: published author.
Palo Alto is a twisted collection of short stories about troubled teenagers in the Northern California town that Franco grew up in.
All the stories revolve around one individual or a group of adolescents. While they may all not be true, Franco confirms in an interview that many of the darkest stories came from his past, someone he knew growing up or stories he had heard.
Franco captures the dark, unbearable drama that teens go through growing up. One of the first stories, “Halloween” is about a teenage boy and one night of partying with his friends. It focuses on the idiotic things kids can do when they are wasted, from uncontrollably driving a car full of kids and starting fights to hooking up with girls.
But the story doesn’t end leaving you feeling like this kid learns a lesson. Instead, it ends with the boy running over and killing someone while he is on his way to get in a fight over his girlfriend.
All the stories follow that pattern.
Another one of the stories is about a smart high school girl who is good at math and had her first kiss with her gay cousin. She goes to a party, meets a “bad boy” named Ronnie and has a 10-minute conversation with him. One of them is dead by the end.
In “China Town In Three Parts,” a boy takes advantage of a young girl he meets. The story gets worse when his friends arrive. In the end, none of the boys involved is apprehended.
Franco really pushes the envelope with this collection, ranging from guns, rape, killing, bullying and kids sleeping with their coach.
The entire collection is raw, violent and rough but surprisingly captures the most difficult parts of growing up.
While this book may not be for everyone, “Palo Alto” definitely is worth the time.
It will draw you in like an accident that you just can’t look away from and leave you feeling a bit vacant and sad.
Franco proves himself as a spectacular writer and should be proud of this book, but I would not recommend it to the lighthearted.
Luckily, if you are not a reader, the film is out, directed by Gia Coppola and starring Franco.