208 pages; Scribner
Set in suburban San Francisco, the spare and riveting stories in James Franco's debut collection, Palo Alto (Scribner), which he dedicated "to the teachers," illustrate the turbulence of youth in a chorus of interconnected lives, teenagers sizzling with struggle beyond their years. From snickering underachievers to self-destructive girls, these gun-toting, chain-smoking kids wreak havoc on their neighborhood, stopping only occasionally to contemplate their own apathy, nihilism, and the deeper psychological underpinnings of their era. Franco's ear for juvenile vernacular—"Birds, and birds, and animals, and things; with slingshots, and BB guns; we killed 'em, and killed 'em. We killed so many"—is like a Ouija board summoning the lost voices of Generation Z.