I love Young Adult books. I think I like them more now than when I WAS a Young Adult. I don't know why. When I was younger, I wanted to grow up fast. We all did. Now, I just want to go back! Life is funny that way. Or maybe I'm just trying to analyze it all way too much. Regardless, I'm thoroughly enjoying the YA Challenge, and Twisted is the second book by Laurie Halse Anderson (272 pgs, Viking Juvenile 2007) that I've picked up for this challenge. She is one amazing writer!
I spent the last Friday of summer vacation spreading hot, sticky tar across the roof of George Washington High. My companions were Dopey, Toothless, and Joe, the brain surgeons in charge of building maintenance. At least they were getting paid. I was working forty feet above the ground, breathing in sulfur fumes from Satan's vomitorium, for free. "Character building", my father said. "Mandatory Community Service" the judge said. Court ordered restitution for the "Foul Deed". He nailed me with the bill for the damage I had done, which meant I had sell my car and bust my hump at a landscaping company all summer.
Tyler Miller was getting ready to start his Senior year in high school. For years, he had been the quiet, geeky kid that most of the football team had picked on. Then a couple of somethings had happened. Tyler had grown taller and filled out. A summer of working at the landscape company had pumped up muscles he didn't even know he had. Now he was taller and stronger than most of the football players. And of course, the "foul deed". Tyler had spray painted a couple of thousand dollars worth of damage at school and had gotten caught. Now he was "dangerous", a bad boy. The kids at school were definitely looking at him differently. Including, Bethany Millbury, only the most beautiful, popular girl at school. A girl Tyler had a crush on forever. Oh yeah, and the daughter of his father's boss.
Tyler's dad was tough and cold. Working for Millbury trust, he spent so much time at work and traveling that he wasn't around that much. But when he was, tension at home was unusually high. Both Tyler and his sister Hannah had to walk on eggshells around him. And Tyler's mom spent a lot of time with either a migraine, or a gin and tonic in her hand.
When Bethany started eating lunch with Tyler, he couldn't have been more amazed. And neither could Chip, Bethany's brother. He was Tyler's mortal enemy and hated that his sister was interested in Tyler. When the Homecoming Bonfire came around, Bethany invited Tyler to go to a party with her and her friends. Since he didn't have his car any longer, Tyler had to walk to the party. Showing up late, Bethany was around drunk when he got there. She practically threw herself at him.....and Tyler being the good kid he really was, tried to sober her up instead of taking advantage of the situation. But Bethany took it as an insult and got mad. She started making out with one of Chip's friends, and left Tyler alone at the party.
Tyler figured this would probably be the end of his dreams with Bethany. But when pictures of a half-naked Bethany got posted on the Internet, Tyler became suspect number one. Now his new found popularity is gone. And he has to prove to everyone, including his dad, that he isn't the kind of person that would do something like this.
Laurie Halse Anderson has this uncanny ability to think like a teenager. And not only that, she can WRITE like a teenager. Twisted is told from Tyler's point of view, and it's hard to believe it wasn't actually written by a teenage boy. Anderson tackles some really deep issues including sex, depression, and teenage suicide. And she does so with such realism and honesty that it's scary. I haven't been in high school for a long time, but I remember a lot of those raw feelings. Anderson just puts them all down on a page. And it's gut-wrenching to read.
It makes me a little frightened to read books like this. My son will be in 7th grade this year, and I just want to hold him and protect him from all the bad things that High School can bring. I know that I can't. I can give him love, encouragement and the tools to try to do the right thing. Then I have to let him go and trust that he will be ok. It scares the hell out of me, it really does.
Even if you don't have kids in school, this book will take you back to the torturous days of high school. It's honest, insightful, and at times, very bleak. But, in the end, there is hope. And that's all that anyone can ask for. This book is definitely not for children (and it plainly states that on the opening page of the book). But for older kids and teens, it's a wonderful look at the world of high school, and the pitfalls and temptations that could possibly face them. Highly recommended. 4.5/5