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Publisher's Summary

A fiercely vivid collection of stories about troubled California teenagers and misfits - violent and harrowing, from the astonishingly talented actor and artist James Franco.

Palo Alto is the debut of a surprising and powerful new literary voice. Written with an immediate sense of place - claustrophobic and ominous - James Franco's collection traces the lives of an extended group of teenagers as they experiment with vices of all kinds, struggle with their families and one another, and succumb to self-destructive, often heartless nihilism.

In "Lockheed" a young woman's summer - spent working a dull internship - is suddenly upended by a spectacular incident of violence at a house party. In "American History" a high-school freshman attempts to impress a girl during a classroom skit with a realistic portrayal of a slave owner, only to have his feigned bigotry avenged. In "I Could Kill Someone" a lonely teenager buys a gun with the aim of killing his high-school tormentor, but begins to wonder about his bully's own inner life.

These linked stories, stark, vivid, and disturbing, are a compelling portrait of lives on the rough fringes of youth.

©2010 James Franco (P)2010 Simon & Schuster

Critic Reviews

"It's the harsh humor that surprises in these stories - that and the observations that show James Franco to be an original and simpatico voice finely tuned to the territory. These quotable, unsettling stories stay with you; they seem to change the ions in a room." (Amy Hempel)
"Franco's talent is unmistakable, his ambition profound. He has taken the twin subjects of suburban Palo Alto and American adolescence and made them as scary and true as they must be. This is a book to be inhaled more than once, with delight and admiration, with unease and pure enjoyment. As a writer, he's here to stay." (Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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Story

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Hit Home

Would you listen to Palo Alto again? Why?

Maybe. It was compelling to me because I grew up in the SF Bay Area it brought me back to how difficult and confusing it was at that age. It is a very raw look at like in suburbia where parents are too busy, too weak or too much in denial to have an in-depth relationship with their children and how lost and hopeless kids can become with no direction and then thrown in the shark tank that is American High School.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The characters were confusing and depressed for the most part. I feel sorry for all of them and to some extent feel sorry for who I was at that age. So my favorite character is me...

Which scene was your favorite?

The realization that the meek don't inherit the earth.

Who was the most memorable character of Palo Alto and why?

April because of the way she was just persuaded into the molestation of her coach. That sort of thing is so much more common than anyone can imagine. Its horrifying.

Any additional comments?

I am at the same time depressed and refreshed for having been reminded of those years and then having an opportunity to share those things in the company of others
through his book. Franco wanted to connect an older generation with a newer one and he did it perfectly. He crossed a couple of decades to reveal the pain we share of being young, entitled, and confused by the world we live in where apathy rules.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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All Kinds of Feels

What did you love best about Palo Alto?

Palo Alto by James Franco was a weird collection of stories, but in a dark, unforgiving, this is what happened kind of way. Do I recommend it? - Depends on who's asking. Not all stories are written to 'appeal to the masses.' The snippets of different perspectives left me creating a fate for each character, which I couldn't help but doing. It was kind of like the choose your own adventure novels we all used to read as kids, except for your gut predictions formed the outcomes.

Have you listened to any of James Franco and Stacey Miller ’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, this was my first.

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A Pleasant Surprise

Enjoyed these stories quite a bit. Nice readings by James Franco and Stacey Miller.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Weird Stuff

Any additional comments?

Some of the stories r good. Some just drone on and on!!!
The last couple stories just would not end!!!
I still would recommend this because for the most part its good.
Now as for Franco as narrator, there is something tiring about his voice. It just puts u to sleep! For the most part he does well in the reading, but in some places its just so boring!!!
In conclusion I'd would recommend this book even though some stories r boring and Franco s voice at times puts u to sleep.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Justin
  • NEW PORT RICHEY, FLORIDA, United States
  • 07-14-14

Teen reality not like the Disney channel

Would you listen to Palo Alto again? Why?

James Franco reveals the true graphic and brutal reality of high school.

What other book might you compare Palo Alto to and why?

There isn't a comparison.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Two points.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Marlowe
  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • 10-02-15

Most likely only published bc it was written

by James franco. He should stick to acting
and I never bother to review books but this one was quite lame.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful