Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Twisted


Anderson, Laurie Halse. 2007. Twisted.

The wait is over. Those who read my blog regularly know that I have been waiting--very eagerly and somewhat impatiently--to get my hands on Laurie Halse Anderson's newest book TWISTED which was published in March. I have read all of Anderson's previous YA books--Speak; Catalyst; Fever, 1793; and Prom. All with varied responses. I loved Speak--I really don't think you can get any more perfect in the YA field than Speak. I enjoyed Fever, 1793. I liked Catalyst. I barely tolerated Prom. (I thought it so mediocre compared to the rest of her books.) But Twisted has restored my confidence in Laurie Halse Anderson in telling POWERFUL stories with a blend of emotions. Not too light, not too dark, not too angsty, not too frivolous, not too funny, not too serious. The perfect blend of frustration, sarcasm, and hope.

Our narrator is Tyler, a senior in high school. He has spent the summer before his senior year on probation and doing community service. His crime? Vandalizing school property with spray paint. He knows he should be thankful not to be doing time in jail or in a juvenile detention center, but life seems so unfair at times. True, not many of the administrators or teachers seem sympathetic with this "criminal," but his story is told in such a way that it's hard not to see his side of the story. If there is a message in TWISTED it is that life isn't fair. It isn't just. Sometimes you can do the right thing AND still be misjudged and mistreated. You can't force other people to see the truth once they're convinced they're right. One past mistake can haunt you for life.

Twisted is in some ways the story of a young teen's troubled life. His life-crisis if you will. How his life downspirals into chaos. How frustration and anger can tear at the soul and bring a person down. But it is equally about how a family is in crisis. Tyler's family is a mess. Just being honest. But they're a complete mess. The father has anger-management issues. He rages out of control. He's angry. He's bitter. He yells all the time. He seems bent on ruining his family's happiness. It almost seems like he goes out of his way to squash the joy out of his wife and two children. Like he wants to see them angry, upset, crying, sullen. He wants to cause problems. Of course, that's only how it seems. I'm sure if it was told from his point of view, it would be another story. The mom? She's afraid of her husband. She knows he's out of control. She knows her husband has a problem. Or make that IS the problem of the family. The family is in chaos because the husband is out of control. He is irrational. Illogical. There is no reasoning with him. Once he decides that something should be done a certain way--that is the ONLY way. For example, his punishment for Tyler who has low grades. To take away his power cord for the computer. The problem? Without the computer how can he do his assignments? How can you improve your grades if you can't do your homework? Luckily, his mom is behind-the-scenes taking care of her children and protecting them from the brunt of their father's anger. But it leaves her a mess. It's a miracle she's still standing at the end of the day after having to deal with her husband. The sister? She's a freshman in high school. I wouldn't say she is acting out for attention necessarily. But she is to a certain extent. She is beginning to rebel from her parents. To want to be different. To want to be popular. To want to follow the crowds. To be accepted by her peers. If that means sneaking out of the house to go to a party where there is drinking and sex--then sobeit. If that means hiding her belly button ring from her parents, then that is what she'll do. She is intent on showing LOTS of skin and being popular. Tyler is a likeable guy. He's a sympathetic character. You know exactly why he feels the way he does. You know and understand.

TWISTED is a novel about dysfunctional families, high school, and society in general. It contains equal parts of humor, sarcasm, frustration, anger, despair, and hope.

The bus let us out in front of the building. Hannah was about to burst with excitement, which would have been disgusting because she would have sprayed blood, guts, and glitter in every direction. She was an innocent, a freshman, one of the sad believers who thought high school was where they would be popular and smart and happy--above all, happy. My sister had watched too many movies. The enlightened ones--the wounded sophomores, jaded juniors, and wise seniors--we trudged to the door, a prison gang so beaten down we didn't need ankle shackles. (44)

I picked up one of the books and flipped through it. Don't get me wrong, I like reading. But some books should come with warning labels: Caution: contains characters and plots guaranteed to induce sleepiness. Do not attempt to drive or operate heavy machinery after ingesting more than one chapter. Has been known to cause blindness, seizures, and a terminal loathing of literature. Should only be taken under the supervision of a highly trained English teacher. Preferably one who grades on the curve. (51)

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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