The narrator of THIS ONE TIME WITH JULIA by David Lampson is possibly one of the most likeable narrators I’ve ever met. At the same time, I know it couldn’t have been easy to write from his point of view, which is probably why I found this book so brilliant. THIS ONE TIME WITH JULIA is a story of family, friendship, and almost romance with a side of road trip and summer antics. And it’s told from the point of view of an eighteen year old who is best described as “simple.”
Joe has lived his whole life looking up to his twin, Alvin. And at eighteen, having dropped out of school, he’s under the care of their older brother Marcus. In truth, both he and Alvin have been Marcus’ responsibility for years, since their parents died in an accident, and Marcus is absolutely sick of Joe. He’s even more sick of Alvin, whom he sees as manipulative, taking advantage of Joe’s trusting nature and inability to make good decisions for himself. Alvin took off recently, on a whim, to be with a girl named Julia who was visiting in L.A. but lives in Tennessee. Alvin misses him desperately — as brothers and especially twins are want to do when separated. So when Alvin unexpected reappears in L.A., even though Marcus says he shouldn’t meet him, and even threatens Joe with eviction, Joe ignores him. And, in a strange turn of events, Joe ends up road tripping in Alvin’s abandoned car with Julia back to Tennessee where pretty much everything he thought could never happen to him is on the menu.
The story is beautiful, hilarious, and heart-wrenching. The book was impossible to put down, and has stayed with me long after having read it. It has that certain flavor that John Green’s books have — the universal truths of growing up boiled into a character who can hardly hold it all inside, the brutal honest and utter joy of being a person, and the way love takes hold when you’re least expecting it — the way it makes you do things that are so outside you’re nature you’d swear your someone else. THIS ONE TIME WITH JULIA is a tremendous achievement of a novel, and it’s one that I hope will be on many many lists this coming year, including ones that come with shiny stickers.