Sunday, June 26, 2011

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Book:  Twisted
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher:  Viking
Year:  2007
Reason I read it:  I had to choose 2 books for my YA lit class that deal with “teen issues”.  This one deals with how to become a man.
My grade:  A+

High school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background—average student, average looks, average dysfunctional family. But since he got busted for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn’t believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who just so happens to be his father’s boss’s daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy—and Tyler’s secret crush. And that sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in the school, in his family, and in the world.

Twisted, the acclaimed Laurie Halse Anderson tackles a very controversial subject: what it means to be a man today. Fans and new readers alike will be captured by Tyler’s pitchperfect, funny voice, the surprising narrative arc, and the thoughtful moral dilemmas that are at the heart of all of the author’s award-winning, widely read work.

My Review

I’ve wanted to read some LHA books for a while, and honestly, “Speak” was the book I wanted to choose, but it has a publication date of 1999 and my professor wanted books with dates from 2001 to now, so I had to choose something else.

The thing that grabbed me about this book was the summary on the inside of the front of the book jacket.  It said:  “Everyone told me to be a man.  Nobody told me how.”  And that was it for the summary.  I thought that was extremely intriguing and also very timely.  There is a lot of research out there now about the mixed messages that boys are getting about what society expects them to be.  There is also a lot of research in education about how boys are falling through the cracks and smart boys are not achieving and boys who struggle are dropping out altogether.  I hoped that this book would give me some insight into the mind of a teenage boy.

I got that plus so much more in this book.  I hate to say it, but I’m actually glad that I had to choose this book instead of “Speak”.  I still want to read it, but I loved the way this book helped get inside the head of a teenage boy.  I’m not sure how a female writer was able to do that, but I felt like she captured the voice perfectly.

This book is about Tyler, a former geek who pulls a prank to get noticed and ends up getting arrested.  Over the summer, he is forced to do a lot of manual labor as part of his community service and he also experiences a growth spurt.  So, he starts school the next year with height, muscles and a tan and is suddenly not the geeky outcast he was before.  Everything should be perfect for him now, right?

Wrong!  Tyler has a distant, angry father who always puts him down, a doting mother who drinks away her problems and a still geeky best friend.  He is constantly thinking about death and dying.  The most popular girl at school starts to like him, which should be a good thing, but it’s a bad thing.

Of course, like any 18 year old boy, he is constantly thinking about sex.  So when a drunk Bethany comes on to him at a party, he thinks it’s a dream come true.  But, like the good guy that he is, he realizes that he’s not going to take advantage of a drunk girl and rebuffs her.  She gets mad and goes off with other people.  Through a series of various events however, Tyler ends up driving home Bethany and her drunk brother and his friend, who just so happens to be the same football jock that Tyler had roughed up earlier in the week for picking on his best friend.

The next day, a bunch of nude pictures of Bethany show up on the internet.  The police show up and Tyler finds out he is the prime suspect.  Needless to say, things go downhill from there for Tyler.  In fact, they go all the way to rock bottom for him, until he has to come to terms with his own life and decisions and try to learn for himself what it means to be a man.

This book was unbelievable.  First, I can’t believe how well LHA was able to get inside of Tyler’s head.  I felt everything that he did, and being inside the head of an adolescent male is not always the most comfortable place to be!  She never shied away from tough issues or controversial subjects and there were many moments where I held my breath, hoping that Tyler would make the right decision.

This book was also on the challenged book list for 2010, probably because there is a very graphic scene of almost suicide.  It was disturbing, but in the best sort of way because it was so thought-provoking, gritty and honest.  I almost cried when it was over.

I think this book was an amazing journey of one young man’s quest to determine for himself what sort of man he will be.  It will take your breath away.

My grade?  Nothing but an A+ will do for this one.  Do yourself a favor and go read this book now.

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