Julian Drew is the narrator of James M Deem's award-winning novel, 3 NBs of Julian Drew. I talk about the book frequently when I make school visits, and I receive many emails from people about the book. Most of them want to know one thing: is the book real?
Here is how I answer that question:
The book was written to sound real. It is written as a series of three journals, or notebooks (NBs). If, as you read the book, you believed that Julian was talking to U...then yes, the book is real. As I wrote the book I thought about people and experiences from my life. One of those people was my mother. Here's a picture of her , taken when she was in high school. That dream-like out-of-focus photo is one of the few I have of my mother and one that I had in mind when I wrote the book. Is my mother really U? Only if YOU think so.
The book was written to capture the reality of a small part of my life. As a teenager I was sometimes abused emotionally in ways both similar and different to Julian's abuse. (So were some of my friends, and I was thinking of them, too.). As a character in a book, Julian becomes a composite: he's part me, part other people that I've known, part other people that I've read about, and (most important) part imagination.
The book was written to allow the reader to feel the pain that a child or teenage feels in losing a parent or other loved one. Some readers have said that the book is more like poetry than a novel. Well, Julian does have a way with language. Despite his troubles, he manages to express himself in ways that seem to break down the walls of a traditional novel.
Persistent questioners ask one more question: Was I Julian Drew? Don't we share the same initials? Aren't I married to a woman named Susan (noted on the hardcover book's jacket)? Wasn't I born and raised in Wheeling, West Virginia? Didn't I move to Arizona? Didn't my mother die?
The best way I can answer those questions is by asking another: have you ever walked by a homeless person on the street and thought that (except for a paycheck or two) you could be that person? That's exactly how I feel about Julian. He could have been me...except that I made different choices in life.
In high school I was quite unlike Julian Drew. I would never have run away from home (though it occasionally crossed my mind as a fantasy). Instead I was very involved in my school. I was senior class vice president and co-editor of the yearbook, among other things. Still I could easily have shared Julian's pain and suffering if I hadn't had a sense of Hope. Other people (friends and relatives and sometimes strangers) in my life provided me with life-saving help and hope many times.