A 1999 Popular Paperback for Young Adults, chosen by the Young Adult Library Services Association, American Library Association

1995 Notable Book in the Language Arts, Children's Literature Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English

1994 Voice of Youth Advocates Outstanding Book for Middle School Teens

1995 New York Public Library's Books for the Teenage List

1997-1998 TAYSHAS High School Reading List, selected by the Young Adult Round Table of the Texas Library Association

Starred reviews in School Library Journal and Notes from the Windowsill


School Library Journal (starred review):

"A challenging and ...compelling story of an abused teenager who fights a heroic battle to deal with his mother's death and to survive the mistreatment of one of the most vicious stepmothers in all of literature...a well-written book


"It is the unusual language which gives the story its power: the words evoke stinging layers of hurt and the galling horror of abuse, as well as the courage, hope, tenacity needed to survive and escape."

Horn Book:

"A memorable, challenging look at a disturbed abused adolescent...a powerful story of desperation and survival."

Notes from the Windowsill: 

"This fascinating, compelling novel well repays the initial effort of deciphering it. Julian's strange writing--not that difficult once you've gotten the hang of it--gives us the story in tantalizing bites, becoming more and more revealing as he slowly conquers his need to distort his own words...this is a brilliant portrait of a troubled person, and of the ways even a troubled person can find to help himself--perhaps the strongest part of the portrait is that despite everything, Julian is far from helpless.  The ending is especially insightful, offering hope for Julian's survival without  denying the damage that may never be healed."

Kirkus Reviews: 

"With an inventive vision, Deem present a hard-edged tale of abuse and recovery."


"A special read, well worth the effort."

Adult and Child: 

"In 3 NBs of Julian Drew, by James Deem, the title character is an abused teen boy so terrorized he can only communicate his true feelings in code. In his NBs (notebooks), Julian writes about his mentally ill stepmother, who has chosen him as the family scapegoat, his neglectful father, and his four siblings.  The rest of the family is subject to the woman's peculiar, penny-pinching ways, but Julian is the only one starved, humiliated, and locked away in the garage. Julian 70V3s (loves) his real M (mother), and dedicates his NBs to her.  He 4AT3s (hates) his "stepnother" and wonders whether to K177 (kill) her or himself.  Deem challenges the reader to crack this code; no key is offered for translation.  More than halfway through the book, after Julian has met a caring teacher, found a job, and befriended a coworker, his code begins to fade and he is able to state for the world to hear:  I am an abused child. It is a tribute to Deem's skill that by the time Julian is writing in clear, easy-to-follow sentences, we already feel we understand him.  The code, maddening at first, becomes clear through context.  3 NBs of Julian Drew begins this way:  "TO25 427WP".  Soon we realize that Julian is writing the date (Tuesday, October 25) and the time (4:27 PM). Read 3 NBs of Julian Drew for the challenge, and you may find yourself sticking with it for the story, which is heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful." (Reviewed by Catherine Atkins)


James M Deem

Copyright © 1988-2018 James M Deem. All Rights Reserved.

Prisoners of Breendonk by James M Deem