Anderson's "Twisted" - That's High School

My personal rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like Tyler Miller. Wait, no I don’t. Oh… yes I do. “Twisted” is kind of like this through the whole book. In some parts, Tyler seems very authentic and likeable (and sue me, I like my protagonists to be likeable). But he can also be very scary, especially as a first person narrator. Do we trust Tyler? Juvenile Delinquent Tyler? I understand that this is part of the point. But I found myself always wary of Tyler, and that kept me a little disconnected from the character. Tyler is searching for his identity, and so are we.

Tyler has issues with his father, and is isolated at school and home. This is a very authentic feeling for boys (frankly men, too) and I think anyone who has ever felt lonely in their life will appreciate these scenes. I had some issues with the middle and the end, Tyler is already ostracized on page one, even for the average reader, so ostracizing him further just didn't seem enough for me. Even Tyler is not entirely sure at points in the story if he did the things people are accusing him of. The turns him into a very unreliable narrator, and forces readers to analyze (maybe even over-analyze) every word he says. The story also diverts from the track of the love interest, and often that can conquer (read save) all, even for boys. Female bloggers tend to give this novel rave reviews. My students give it mixed. I am not raving, but I DO think this book has something to offer the male reading public.

Short chapters and an excellent use of white space, line breaks, and a gender neutral cover, all work well, so kudos to Anderson and Viking Juvenile for considering their audience. This is Anderson’s first attempt at a male lead, and in some places the authenticity is missing or seems forced, but on the whole, she gets it right enough.

The book broaches feelings that boys rarely access (mostly revolving about becoming an adult, and in this case becoming a man) and this book is a great avenue to explore those feelings. I wouldn’t say this is a “typical” guy book, however it has those elements, and maybe asks a little more of our young male readers, instead of just sitting them down with an action/sports novel.

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Opening Line: “I spent the last Friday of summer vacation spreading hot, sticky tar across the roof of George Washington High.”

Something Extra: Risha Mullins interviews Laurie Halse Anderson on her blog "For the Love of YA" and a interesting YouTube interview.

Bottom Line: Give this book to students. Girls should like it and boys will be satisfied with its edgy feel and readability. It is a good example of realistic YA drama fiction.

Classroom Grade: B