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By Laurie Halse Anderson
ISBN 978-0670061013
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Over the summer Tyler Miller has blossomed. He was just another geek that was picked on the year before. Then he was arrested for what he calls the awful incident; spray painting graffiti on his high school. Probation led to community service with the custodians at the school and a summer of hard labor with a landscaping company. So scrawny Tyler is now buff and developed. The kids have started to notice him at school, including the popular Bethany Milbury.

Things are not great at home. His father is harsh and distant. His mom seems to live under his father’s shadow. His younger sister has started high school and Tyler feels very protective, especially when she starts dating his best friend. But Tyler is constantly on guard, because of his probation, yet he’s caught up in the attention that Bethany Milbury has started to show him.

Attending a party he should never have been at (because it broke the rules of his probation - underage drinking, drugs, and past curfew) leads to another awful incident. Bethany is drunk and throws herself at Tyler. He rebuffs her advances because she’s drunk and he knows it’s just not right. (It was hard for me to believe that a teenage boy would be so noble, but I was still cheering for Tyler.) Everyone hears about it and so when compromising photos of Bethany end up on the Internet, Tyler is the first suspect in the police’s investigation.

Let me start by saying that Twisted, was a quick and gripping read. Tyler’s voice was enjoyable. I really liked grew to like Tyler. I felt his deep despair and wanted him to conquer all. I wanted everyone to see he was in the right. And Laurie Halse Anderson (author of the Printz honor book Speak) has a simplicity in her writing that capture’s a reader’s attention.

(And I guess this contains spoilers….. so you might not want to read this part….)

Yet, I really wasn’t sure what I thought about this book, until someone posted a request for a YA title that deals with suicide and someone mentioned this book as a possibility. It wasn’t Tyler’s spiral into despair that bugged me. Home life sucks. School sucks. His only and best friend is too busy dating his sister to pay much attention to him. So the spiral rang true, but the climb back to a strong sense of self is what lost me. This wasn’t a book about suicide – though Tyler does flirt with the idea. He holds the gun, yet I never believe that Tyler would do it, even though his misery is so real. And what makes this not a suicide book in my opinion, is that to be so close to taking your own life, you need help. You need to talk to someone a friend, a trusted adult, because the climb back to self-worth is just not going to happen on its own. That’s where this book lost me. Tyler accomplishes it all on his own. He confronts his father on his own and comes to self on his own. That's what I don't believe.

Twisted is a great read and fans of Laurie Halse Anderson will surely want to pick up her latest accomplishment and it wouldn’t surprise me if this picked up some critical mention.


Jun. 6th, 2007 01:19 am (UTC)
You make a good point. I do know that when I read about Tyler going for the gun, I kept saying, "Don't do it!" while at the same time knowing/feeling that he wasn't going to go through with it because he didn't seem to have really gotten to that level yet. But I believed he was depressed enough to wonder if it was worth going on and toy with the idea of suicide. Now that you've made me think about it more, I think you make a good point that it does seem a little too easy for him to pull himself out of that depression. But I also believe that Tyler is very strong at a fundamental level, so I could buy him gathering that strength to take a stand for himself. I think, too, that his anger actually makes it possible for him to decide he's not going to take anyone's crap anymore. Sort of, "Why should I commit suicide? Why should I let them isolate me and treat me like a criminal? I'm not the problem." He uses that anger to give him the initial push out of his depression and to take steps to force a change in his (the family's) relationship with his father. But I think it's just an initial push. Clearly, he'll need someone to talk to about all that's going on and about how he can best handle it all. But Tyler has come this far in learning about himself, and I believe that he recognizes that keeping it all inside hasn't been helpful in the past and won't be helpful in the future. He may have taken those first steps alone, but that doesn't mean he'll make them rest of them alone too.

I'm not being terribly coherent, and I do wish I had the book nearby so that I could refer to it. But basically, I'm saying that I understand where you're coming from and I agree to an extent. At the same time, it wasn't enough to lower my opinion of the book. I still think it's far more successful (more cohesive) than Catalyst and more of a meal, as it were, than Prom (which I did like).

ReadingFool (replying to your comment on my blog and to those here)
Jun. 7th, 2007 12:56 am (UTC)
Re: Twisted
Thanks for reading and commenting. I do get your point. I liked the book and thought it's a great quick read, I just thought it lacked the depth and character development of say Speak. Catalyst is a non-entity in my mind. But Prom was a great attempt at humor. I loved it (though as a lighter read). I'll be keeping tabs on your blog though. I like your insight on books.