May 05, 2015

Forever Julia

by Jodi Carmichael
Great Plains Teen Fiction
262 pp.
Ages 14+
April, 2015

Julia Collins must feel like she's living her life from out-of-body. And with the life she has, I might want out too. Her much-adored dad has passed from cancer just 6 months ago, and her Mom is so grief-stricken that she can't even bear to speak of him.  They now live in a small two-bedroom flat above their bookstore and money is an issue, though Julia had never minds thrift-store shopping with her long-time best friend and creative fashionista, Annika, who understands about Julia's issues with depression and anxiety and watches out for her constantly.

But now Julia is going out with the obscenely wealthy Jeremy Thurston, a.k.a. the Third, jock and popularity icon, and he is pressuring her to have sex, though she has made it clear that she is not ready.  The gutsy Annika can’t stand Jeremy and makes it clear every time he pulls some stunt, like kicking Julia out of the ski chalet where they were supposed spend the night when she refuses his advances yet again.  Sadly, in her mind, Julia is convinced that she can have it all: the wonderful dating relationship with Jeremy who calls her “beautiful”; new friendships with the popular girls; a scholarship to USC for architecture; and the best friendship she has ever had.  Imagine thinking,
Maybe if I convince Annika to tone down her wardrobe, Jeremy would see how incredible she really is and then maybe everyone would get along. (pg. 105)
Sadly naïve, but probably not atypical for a teen who is trying to work everything out.

Then Grandma, who generally splits her time between Arizona and the cottage, arrives to stay–in Julia’s room–while being treated for breast cancer.  Now both Grandma and Mom are watching her and what’s going on around her, and they’re not always pleased by what they see.

It’s not surprising that Julia questions everything that she feels but what’s worse is that she never trusts her feelings to be legit or honest.  Whether that’s because of her anxiety or depression is irrelevant.  All that matters is that the life that was once warmed with Dad and Mom happily living in a modest home and with a reliable and loving BFF is now a life she doesn’t even recognize as her own.  Who is the girl who lets herself drink when she knows it’s verboten with the meds she’s on?  Who is the girl who kisses her boyfriend in public like there's no one else around?  Who is the girl who apologizes to a guy who thinks nothing of stranding her at a ski resort when she doesn’t want to have sex?  Jeremy may get a tattoo, even a temporary one, that reads “Forever Julia” but Julia can’t be forever when she doesn’t  know who she is, who she wants to be, or who she can be.

Jodi Carmichael gets inside of this Julia and gives her a true voice, albeit one mixed and confused with guilt, grief, envy, desire, and affection.  Julia definitely morphs over the course of Forever Julia though I suspect she hasn’t come into herself completely, yet. Forever is a long time to be someone, to love someone, to trust someone, to be friends. It may be possible but maybe not.  Not everything can be forever: not life, not love, not lust, not even family nor  friends.  And Jodi Carmichael makes sure that Julia accepts this, even if only temporarily, in Forever Julia.


  1. Thanks so much for this very thorough review. You hit on all the questions posed in the book. I hope readers ask these questions about Julia and also themselves. Questions like, who am I? What do I want and need? And is this enough for me? These are important questions everyone should ponder, no matter our age, but especially during teenage years.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jodi. It's always nice to hear from the author directly.

  2. I'm reading this book right now and love the complexity of the characters and the energetic writing style. Great job, Jodi!

    1. Being a teen can be so complicated. I think Jodi Carmichael really gets it right in "Forever Julia". So glad I'm not a teen.

  3. Thanks Gabriele. I loved writing Julia's story and capturing all the relationships in just that right way was key.