Review ~ Julie by Catherine Marshall

Back Cover:

Will the dam hold?

Julie Wallace has always wanted to write. Trying to escape the Great Depression, Julie’s father buys the Alderton Sentinel, a small-town newspaper in flood-prone Alderton, Pennsylvania, and moves his family there. As flash floods ominously increase, Julie’s investigative reporting uncovers secrets that could endanger the entire community.

Julie, the newspaper, and her family are thrown into a perilous standoff with the owners of the steel mills as they investigate the conditions of the immigrant laborers. As the Alderton Sentinel and Julie take on a more aggressive role to reform these conditions, seething tensions come to a head.

When a devastating tragedy follows a shocking revelation, Julie’s courage and strength are tested. Will truth and justice win, or will Julie lose everything she holds dear?

My Review:

Senior year of high school, Julie’s family uproots and moves to a new town, where her father has just invested their entire savings into a floundering newspaper. Town tensions are high between the “lowlanders” and the industrial big-wigs, with unionization threats, demanding better working conditions and higher wages in the slum-like steel mill workers. On top of it all, the dam holding back the man made lake above the town, threatens to spill it’s banks.

In all of this, Julie is just a girl with high ideals, struggling with the changes, and writing in her journal. Since you’re reading from her perspective, you get to observe her thoughts on everything from the eligible bachelors in town to her desire to write and expose the truth. She’s naive, a troublemaker, and above all, extremely relate-able.

She and others in this book also struggle with many questions about God–how God allows bad things to happen to good people; how to have a personal relationship with God; what Christians are called to do about evil in the world. The young pastor in town represents the ideaology of the Social Gospel movement, which preached doing the works of Christ almost to the point where some believed that was entirely the way of salvation. Mr. Wallace (Julie’s father) and Dean (a local Steel worker) balance out that way of thinking, showing that with a true relationship with God, He will call you to many ways of ministry. This depiction of inner-questioning in the book was extremely enlightening and leads readers in a way that is neither preachy nor didactic.

The story picks up slowly, and is the most interesting in the last two-thirds of the book, but the first part is essential for establishing the Wallace family background and that of the town. If you get stuck, push through, because this book is definitely worth reading.

In addition to everything happening with Julie’s career as a newspaper journalist, the book also focuses on her potential suitors, at least four serious ones! Man, if only I was that popular in high school. Julie takes casual dating lightly, and declines most boys’ offers to drive her up to Lookout Point for some “necking”. Julie is a proper young girl but genuinely feels her human desires and there are a few kissing scenes that are quite intense. There are also several instances of bad language, but it is treated in a good way. Because of that and other factors, I would recommend this book to a Young Adult to Adult audience.


Julie by Catherine Marshall

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