Poignant, suspenseful, and sometimes surprising, William Bell’s Julian explores the meaning of “home” and the winding paths we take to get there.
More than anything else, Aidan wants to control his own life. Buffeted from one foster home to another, Aidan has never really belonged anywhere. When he saves the life of a young boy, Aidan is introduced to the boy’s grandfather, Mr. Bai —an enigmatic, but wealthy businessman—who offers to reward Aidan for his service. Aidan has just one request—to disappear. And so, fifteen-year-old Aidan vanishes, and eighteen-year-old Julian Paladin is born.
But Julian’s new life is far from perfect. He has freedom and independence, but these come with the burden of responsibility. Julian questions the ethics of his part-time investigative work, he worries that he is a pawn in Mr. Bai’s illegal schemes, and he is inexplicably drawn to Ninon, a homeless girl who is desperate to escape the dark secrets in her own past. As Julian struggles to make sense of his new circumstances, he discovers that identity is much more than a name on a forged birth certificate.
Episodic and action driven, Julian is a nice choice for reluctant readers, but has the necessary layers and unresolved dilemmas to sustain a high school novel study. Using economical language and a jarring pragmatism, Bell efficiently morphs romance into tragedy with a refreshing lack of melodrama. His unvarnished look at life’s casual cruelties is, regardless, an optimistic tale of unexpected families, unlikely heroism, and the brightest, bluest sky in the entire world.