Book Review: 3 NBs of Julian Drew by James M. Deem

Title: 3 NBs of Julian Drew

Author: James M. Deem

Genre: YA Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 208

Rating: B-

Recommended?: Yes

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this book. A creepy and deeply odd epistolary novel about a teenage boy from an abusive family, 3 NBs of Julian Drew is uneven but has a sense of authenticity that makes it impossible to dismiss.

15-year-old Julian Drew’s life is a mess. Since his mom died of cancer and his dad remarried, his existence has become an unending nightmare. His dad and stepmother lock him in his room for hours and give him a bucket to piss in. He’s constantly scapegoated and subjected to harsh punishments, while his stepsiblings and sister seem to be left alone.

Julian writes his feelings down in the titular notebooks and uses a lot of strange numbers and abbreviations that make it hard to understand at first. Early on Julian keeps referring to his mom as his girlfriend, it seems like he has a bit of an Oedipal complex. Julian is clearly ‘troubled’ but also seems delusional, which is never addressed.

He seems really young for a 15-year-old and is legit planning to travel back in time to be reunited with his mother. The side characters don’t really make sense, possibly because Julian himself is an unreliable narrator. He’s befriended by a teacher who encourages him in his writing, but when he finally tells her about his family situation his reaction is… strange.

She doesn’t seem that arsed about it, she only cares about him writing about his experiences. She has Julian babysit her kids (there’s a random and creepy moment where her young daughter asks Julian if he ‘wants to see her vagina’ that made me wonder if the teacher’s kids were being abused too.)

Then something sudden and tragic happens to the teacher that feels like it is dropped from the story pretty quickly. It almost felt like a dream. There’s also a girl who really likes Julian, even though he’s so strange and closed-off. It’s hard to picture him attracting female attention but chicks dig broody guys, right?

Julian is an interesting character and the unusual style in which the book is written makes it stand out among other epistolary stories and ‘problem novels.’ It might appeal to fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and other intimate young adult novels with troubled teenage protagonists.

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