Today was gloomy, cloudy, windy, rainy, and cold. It’s almost May and should be spring. Yet, I had to wear a jacket on my way out. But before I went out, I finished Palo Alto, the book by James Franco.

Not long ago, he was all over the news for flirting with a 17-year-old via Instagram. Reading this book just reminded me of the news.

Palo Alto is a book of stories about all these rebellious teens. A lot of pot, alcohol, and some sex. These kids were 14, drunk and high. In an age when they think they knew everything, thought they could be responsible for themselves, or thought they were smart enough to avoid being responsible for their trouble. To some degree, they might have been right. They could play the innocent card, the immature card, the curious card. But when you, or me, get to mid 20s, especially after college, you grow up in the night because parents no long back you up financially. You and I are all on our own, you know?

I wouldn’t say I wish I could go back to when I was a teen. Not that I don’t want to; it’s just different. I would go back to do some crazy stuff, knowing I could play the immature card to adults and authorities. When I was reading the stories of these kids killing animals, smoking, drinking, trying to have sex, I had mix feelings. At the age of 14, I was spending my second year in boarding school. In America, going to boarding school may not mean a good thing. But in China, private boarding school are usually good schools. So, there I was studying hard and gossiping with my girls because there were a lot of rich kids, whose family own business, factories and work for the government. There was no pot, vodka, or sex. I miss the dorm with my girls. I enjoyed the days where gossips were just about that girl who did not fit in with me and the other three girls. I talked behind a teacher and got caught. Teachers looked at me differently and probably hated me for a while. But I was one of the better students in the class. So they couldn’t really do anything to me. It was good days.

But I was curious if I were put into this situations with these teens, would I fit in? I was in American for my sophomore year in high school. It was in a Detroit suburb. It wasn’t like Palo Alto crazy. Or may it was just because I was hanging out with the good people. I was just wondering what if I were one of them. I might have been just one of them if I were in American high school. Or I might have been the nerd that nobody talked to. Who knew.

I picked this book also because I was curious how good a writer James Franco was and is. Well, this book is about these rebellious and irresponsible teens in adults’ eyes (these teens, if they really lived, for sure thought they were being themselves and cool). I didn’t find any evidence of adults and judging like we adults do in the book. All stories written in teens’ eyes. Even how they describe authorities, like the probation counsellor, and old people, adults, etc.

Writing techniques were pretty unique. But especially in Part I, each story has its own narrator. I didn’t learn who the narrator was until I read the conversations. In addition, in Part II, within the same story, the narrator changed. It could be very confusing.

When you get to certain age, you know to obey to the authority. You, at least pretend to, respect them in the presence. But some teens, like Teddy, just did what he wanted to. He was late to the meeting with probation counselor. He was cursing. He was kicked out of the library for drawing dicks and vaginas in children’s books instead of completing his community services.

After six years in America, I am not surprised by teens here do such things. It’s the culture here. It’s the peer pressure here. Bad kids were cool. In the school, they knew who had sex first, who could get alcohol or pot. They wanted to go to party and get shitface. This, more of less, is like college.

I am also curious how the movie will turn out.



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