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Californium

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3.81  ·  Rating details ·  108 ratings  ·  35 reviews
A coming-of-age crossover novel about growing up, selling out, and fitting in.
     It's late summer 1982 when the Houghton family uproots from Paterson, New Jersey and moves to Yorba Linda, California—the self-anointed "Land of Gracious Living." Fourteen year-old Reece is trying his best to believe his family has come to California for the opportunities it affords and not
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Paperback, 352 pages
Published July 19th 2016 by Plume
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3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  108 ratings  ·  35 reviews


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Cynthia Corral
So keep in mind that 3 stars means "I liked it."
But I didn't love it. And it took me an incredibly long time to read it because I had other things I'd rather do.

I think the author has a good concept, and I like what he was trying to do, and I love how a lot came together with science in the end. But getting there was kind of a long, slow drag.

Initially I was all in with this book; I went to high school in NoCal in the 80s, and went to college in SoCal also in the 80s. The bands, the music, the c
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Courtney
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I couldn’t put this book down.

It’s about a boy coming of age in Orange County in the 80s during the punk scene. Growing up in Orange County myself and listening to my parents stories about that time and working in the music industry and seeing most of the bands mentioned, it was super fun to read about it from that perspective. The way the author wrote really pulls you in to caring about the characters and feeling like you really know them and i love the small town elements of creating a univer
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Shaun
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I don't normally read YA novels, but I really, really liked this book.

The characters are so well developed, so likeable and the plot is often complex, moving and insightful.

The story transported me back to my own high-school days, and made me wish I was back there again. I really didn't want this story to end - I loved it
Lisa Day
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Teenage boy's mind revealed

Bob Johnson's novel is far more than bildungsroman; it's a story of friendship and self-discovery, familial relationships, and the difficult process of grief. The book takes me back to my own high school experience in the 80s, and it's a relief to learn that boys think about the same basic things in similarly neurotic ways as girls.
Susan
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was not a "blow you away", "oh my gosh" 5 star book. However, it was a well-written look into life in the early 80s in Southern California, life of a 14 year old dealing with his own internal struggles and those of being a teen boy in high school, and a fun look at the music and culture of the time. Mentions of Tower Records and Millers Outpost, helped keep the nostalgia level high and firmly placed the story in its time. But even if you aren't a child of the 80s, the characters and situati ...more
Clyde Jamison
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great coming of age story with a likable narrator. Johnson does a great job of taking Reece and transplanting him into this new world of California punk rock. He reminded me much of myself discovering Green Day in 1997 and eventually starting my own garage band in Northern Kentucky.

I would have preferred more baseball references as opposed to science ones, but the whole periodic table and idea of Californium made more sense at the end. It seemed the baseball references were more fluidly placed t
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Jennifer Spiegel
It's been a while since I've read it, but I'm thinking RULE OF THE BONE. There's some CATCHER too. This sweet bildungsroman covers the time-I think I might say--just before the angst sets in. This is an early portrait of Gen X. Gen X as kids. Gen X on the cusp. Gen X without cynicism. When girls dressed in big sweatshirts that fell off naked shoulders, all Flashdancy.
Laurie
A good coming-of-age novel about a high school freshman in a new school. It will make you remember your high school days with fond memories or some anxiety. A great read for teenagers. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.
Brooke Raby
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Definitely a crossover, but most enjoyable for adults. A lyrical introduction to disappointment, anticipation, bewilderment, grief, and finding your own groove. The writing is top-notch, even if the subject feels worn. But I've never wanted a used jacket with band patches more in my life.
Heidi Kirsch
Jul 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC of this in exchange for an honest review.

I was interested in the book because it was about adolescence in the 80's and 'punk rock.'
Stephanie Faris
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Californium introduces us to Reece, a 14-year-old teen with a heart of gold. Soon after moving to California with his family, he meets Keith and Treat...and the three of them start a punk group. The nostalgia factor is huge for those who grew up in the 80s, but mostly I just enjoyed seeing that side of the 80s-teen experience. Also, Reece is such a lovable character, you can't help but root for him throughout this coming-of-age story.
Randy
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reminds me of my high school years and the decit in the music business as well, no matter how old you are.
Luke Wilson
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: contemporary
Full disclosure to the author (whom I know as Bob, and consider a friend): I started this book more because he wrote it, though the subject matter was of interest to me. I'm obsessed with '80s music, but I've never gotten into punk (I'm a new wave and post-punk kind of guy), so I didn't know what to expect. However, the more I read it, the more I got into it, and by the end I was thoroughly blown away. Johnson did something rather miraculous with this book: he got me nostalgic for high school, w ...more
Kathy Stone
Sep 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-to-read
This is a story of the new kid. There is an undercurrent of sadness as Reece tries to navigate high school in new state. He wants to fit in, but does know how. He meets up with a neighbor boy who pretends to know everything, but does not really know anything and a punk rock wannabe who is also depressed. The difference is that Reece finds a productive use for his grief while his friend Treat does not and as a result a friendship is destroyed. This is a hard lesson for teens to learn as they navi ...more
Katie Harder-schauer
I received a copy of this book through Penguin's First to Read program in exchange for an honest review.

For some reason I had it in my head that this book was set 10-15 years before it is, so there was a bit of a social disconnect for me for a while, until I went and read the blurb again. Things started to make a little more sense then. It was a little surreal for me reading something that really qualifies as historical fiction (in my opinion) that is set at a time when I almost existed. Surely
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Jim Collett
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won a copy of this book from Read It Forward. It is a nice little coming-of-age novel set in California in the early 1980s. Punk rock, or at least the illusion of punk rock (!), plays a significant role in the story. While I was not much into that music, I knew enough to understand the references, clothing style, etc. I thought the language was a little rough in places for young adult literature, but perhaps I'm just too prudish. The primary character, a high school freshman, has just relocate ...more
Terri
Jul 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reece is a teenager living in California in the 1980s. Not only is he a freshman in a new school, but his whole family moved from New Jersey to California. It is up to Reece and the friends he makes to begin understanding who he is and where he wants to go next, and how he can get over missing his beloved Uncle Ryan. In Californium the clock is turned back—readers are dropped into the high school life where you're going to be put in a box: are you a jock, a nerd, a punk or what? The decisions Re ...more
Julie Hicks
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a fantastic coming of age novel during a time when rebellion is about finding yourself. This book captures teen angst in a storyline that uses punk rock and seeking popularity to follow the story of a young man named Reece. Reece wants nothing more than to be noticed especially after he returns from New York. He left a life he loved behind especially the one he looks up to Themistocles, his Uncle Ryan. We follow Reece as he learns that growing pains are real, some friends are fake, ...more
Tracy Haught
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a thoroughly enjoyable read. Californium is a nostalgic trip back to the 80's when friendship consisted of actually having to walk down to your friends house rather than pick up your cellphone. When you actually used your imagination, explored your neighborhood, and talked to people with your voice, not your fingers. The Wonder Years came to mind as I read. The author does a beautiful job of creating a main character , Reece, whose voice sings the song of innocence, angst, and rebellion, to ...more
Brent
Sep 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is fantastic. I was about five years older than the teens in this book and growing up in the frozen north but dreams of rebellion and punk rock supremacy guided me through the terror and pain of adolescence. We really had nothing to be angry about but like Treat needed to look and act the part, to trick both ourselves and those around us as to who we really were. Thank you for bringing these awkward days so vividly back to life. Not sure my buddies who were into Van Halen and ACDC woul ...more
Laura Mc
Aug 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Undeniably funny, this coming-of-age novel is about the teenage boy who longs to be accepted. The New Jersey high schooler, Reece, struggles with a move to California in the 1980s, as his tight-knit relationship with his father sours. Reece finds his way in adolescene, mourns the new family dynamic of a father who is emotionally and physically absent, and looks for ways to make friends in a radically new environment at school. His answer to his problems? Start a punk rock band. The author is hil ...more
Lisa Workman
Jul 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure that I would like this book, as I have never liked punk rock, but the book is really more of a coming of age story with a focus on friendships and self-discovery. As an 80s kid, I found it to be relatable, and an overall enjoyable light read. I won a copy of this in a Goodreads giveaway and the opinions are my own.
Steven
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
A book that perfectly captures coming of age in my hometown, Yorba Linda, CA. Loved all the references to Yorba Linda Blvd and Esperanza, the workings of the high school rumor mill, and the homegrown punk scene.
Lou Repetto-conry
Aug 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Megan
May 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Disclaimer: I won a free copy of this book from www.firsttoread.com. This review is also posted on www.goodreads.com

The "Coming of Age" genre focuses on identity. Who you are, who people think you are, and the multiple identities you walk in amongst your peers, family, and the larger circles around you. As the novel progresses, we get to see Reece transform from the new kid in school who's trying to find a way to fit in, to a young man who is starting to understand the complexities of life. CALI
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Eli Wilkinson
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
For a book billed as 'punk rock' there's surprisingly little discussion about music until well past the halfway point. This drawing out of things is the book's biggest short coming, a VERY slow burn that just doesn't deliver.

I found the characters to be pretty flat and undeveloped. The narrators descriptions of people and events reads like a high school report, which is maybe purposeful? But for me doesn't work.
Hendo
Jan 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Set in the 1980s. Drags a little in the middle, but it's pretty good.
Sophie
Mar 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I really disliked the main character, Reece, but I enjoyed other characters like Edie and Treat. The plot wasn't too bad, but you should only read this book if you're cool with a creepy protagonist.
Glen
Jun 28, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, firsttoread-com
Disclaimer: I won a free copy of this book from www.firsttoread.com

Reece is a freshman in high school, a new Californian having just moved along with his family from New Jersey. He seems to be a normal teenager as the book details him finding himself, new friends and discovering love. The author captures it all quite nicely. I also liked the way the author juxtaposes baseball and punk rock music; baseball acted as a nod to Reece's youth while the punk music was a nod to him establishing indepen
...more
Laura Valentine
Coming of age in the punk era, sort of.
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I haven't been R Dean Johnson my whole life. My parents named me Robert Dean Johnson, Jr. They called me Bobby. Everyone did until high school when I graduated to Bob. It felt mature, so I went with it. Who doesn't like a guy named Bob Johnson? It's a fine name up until the point you think you might want to be a writer.

I didn't know I'd want to become a writer. In fact, I started college at Cal Po
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“I want to believe him. I know stuff happens to people and they can't always be who they were or who they think they're supposed to be. But knowing that doesn't mean I'm okay with it. It's more like what Mr. Krueger says about black holes: We can't wish them away, so we'd better learn as much as we can about where they are and how they work so we don't get sucked in.” 2 likes
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