Tuesday, May 29, 2007

TWISTED by Laurie Halse Anderson

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
5Q 5P (J)/S

For most of his school life, Tyler was a runty dweeb that nobody noticed. He didn't even have a gang of friends to hang around with. And forget girls. He was definitely not a babe magnet. By the end of his junior year, he was tired of being Invisible Man. So he decided to pull a prank that would get him noticed.

Get him noticed it did. His Foul Deed involved five cans of spray paint, the walls of the school, and the police. If you want to pull off a prank like this successfully, it's a good idea not to have your wallet on you. If you must bring it with you, do not leave it behind as a way to sign your artwork. It didn't take long for the police to come knocking.

Tyler has spent the entire summer serving his community service time working for a lawn care firm and helping the school custodians clean up the school grounds. He knows that all this work has put some muscles on him, but he's not prepared for the reaction he gets when he returns to school. Some kids ignore him (still), some kids scorn him for being a troublemaker, and some kids hail him as a hero. But the girls...all of a sudden, he's got their attention. Suddenly he's tall, good looking, and built.

That's Tyler on the outside. Inside, he's the same insecure, confused kid he's always been. Only now, he's angry, too. The anger comes from a lot of places, but number one has to be his father, who now treats him like a hardened criminal because of the Foul Deed. But it's more than that. His father used to be an okay guy, back when Tyler was a kid. But now he's just a total jerk who is in his face all the time. Nothing anyone in the family does is good enough. Tyler's mother copes with the help of multiple gin and tonics. Tyler and his sister just try to keep a low profile. In a way, it's Tyler's father who gets him into his next mess. His boss is having a party, families invited, and Tyler's father insists that his family attend. It's pretty clear (to everyone but Tyler's father) when they get there that they are out of place and not really wanted. But they stay, and that's when things really start going bad. The boss has two kids, Chip and Bethany. Chip is a grade-A jerk and Bethany is hot. Chip doesn't like Tyler. Bethany does. Chip pushes Tyler, Tyler trips, bangs into Bethany, and glasses shatter. Bethany steps on glass, Bethany gets a bad gash on her foot, Tyler swoops in to the rescue. Chip steams.

It wouldn't be right to say that Tyler and Bethany become a couple, but they're both very aware of each other. Eventually, they wind up together at a party. Bethany gets totally wasted, and Tyler knows that he could do pretty much anything he wants to her. Even though one part of him is urging him to go for it, he restrains himself, which doesn't make Bethany happy at all. Tyler leaves the party feeling pretty good that he didn't take advantage of her. But the next day, all hell breaks loose. He may not have taken advantage of the situation, but somebody else did, and whoever that was, he took pictures. But it's Tyler who is getting the blame. After all, everyone knows that Tyler is a bad egg. Everyone includes Tyler's dad and the police. It sure is a twisted world when you do the right thing and wind up looking like a criminal.


I think this is Anderson's best book since Speak. Tyler is an utterly believable character, and your heart just breaks for him as he tries to deal with a false accusations, a little sister who is fourteen-going-on-thirty, a mother bordering on alcoholism, and a father who has forgotten that parenting is as much about love, understanding, and attention as it is about discipline. Throughout the book, Tyler plays a video game that takes place in Hell. Maybe not a subtle bit of symbolism, but it sure is dead on and effective. Anderson may be a woman, but she has her guy-antennae tuned to the right frequency. And, as usual, she writes a heck of a story.

I've never seen a book that has a page with a NOTE: This book is not for children. caution. I know Laurie has written some middle-grade books in addition to her YA novels, but I still found this odd. I'm wondering who decided it belonged in the book and for what reason. (For the record, I do agree. I recommend it to high school students, though some junior high school students will also get full value from it.)

Edited to add a link to Laurie Halse Anderson's blog post about the warning message.

I'm curious to know what's up with dad at the end. I thought at first that one thing was going on, but now I think it might be completely the opposite. It's not wrapped up at the end, which is actually not a bad thing. My suspicion now: The shoe might be on the other foot soon.

Quotes: (Oh, heck! It's taken me weeks to finish writing this up - lots going on at work - and I forgot to keep track of these! I guess I'll have to leave it at this one:)

  • It got a little better in high school. I became invisible, your average piece of drywall who spent too much time playing video games. Girls would look straight at me and never see the writhing masculine beast hidden inside my hundred-thirty-five pounds of veal-white man-flesh.


  1. I love reading your reviews.
    They are so well written. I discovered your blog on a yalsa post. Your link doesn't work though. You have www, and ir should be http://
    I found you anyway and glad I did.
    Kathy Spielman
    Yorba linda Middle Scool
    Yorba Linda, CA 92886

  2. Thank you for the compliment, and thanks for letting me know I had the URL wrong. I fixed it in my .sig file. If I got it wrong in a YALSA-BK post too, I'm glad you were able to figure it out. I'll make sure I get it right in the future!

  3. It's funny, so many of the reviews of this book were positive and yet, this is one of Anderson's book that just left me wanting for more... (I wrote my own thoughts here: http://booksblogger.livejournal.com/1749.html#cutid1)

  4. i love how this review doesn't give a LOT of details away because some that i have read in the past have.. and it ruined it for me .. but overall,......... GREAT JOB!!!!!!!


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