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Monday, March 16, 2009

TWISTED by Laurie Halse Anderson




I just finished reading Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson today and i found this review written by John Green, whom I love. thought i'd post it cause i agree with his statments. i Have read both Speak and Twisted.

Children’s Books
By JOHN GREEN
Published: June 3, 2007
Correction Appended
Even a decade ago, there were very few books in the young adult section of the bookstore that a reasonably sophisticated 16-year-old would enjoy. Back then, “YA” novels were almost always written for (and sold to) middle-school students. Now, books like “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing” and “The Book Thief” are being read not only by teenagers but also by their parents.

So it is not entirely surprising that before the first chapter of Laurie Halse Anderson’s new novel, “Twisted,” there is a bold note, seemingly stamped onto the page: “This is not a book for children.” This is ostensibly a warning (though by the standards of contemporary books for teenagers, “Twisted” is tame). But it is also a marketing ploy: after all, no self-respecting teenager considers herself a child.
Many people contributed to the transformation in the audience for young adult novels, but one of the most important was Anderson. Her novel “Speak” (1999) was one of the first seriously good books published for teenagers to be read widely by them. It tells the story of Melinda Sordino, a clanless outcast who barely endures her freshman year at a suburban high school, and it features one of the best young narrative voices this side of Holden Caulfield.
Anderson’s new novel, “Twisted,” isn’t set in the same suburb, but it might as well be. We find ourselves again in an upper-middle-class public school ruled by an iron-fisted social elite. But this time our guide is a guy — the world-class loser Tyler Miller, who at the start of his senior year is just wrapping up a community service stint imposed in punishment for what he calls “the Foul Deed.” (It involved spray-painting graffiti all over school. In the novel’s funniest moment, Tyler laments having misspelled “testicle.”)
Tyler isn’t eager to return to school; in fact, he prefers manual labor. “I was good at digging holes,” he notes. It’s the rest of life he’s not good at.
He may be enrolled in three A.P. courses and calculus, but Tyler is seriously troubled. He immediately begins doing poorly in most of his classes. His nerdy best friend, Yoda, is looking to date Tyler’s sister. And Tyler is in love (or lust, anyway) with Bethany, whose dad runs the company Tyler’s dad works for. Tyler’s dad, an accountant turned executive who is routinely humiliated by his boss, is at home a venomously cruel man prone to rage and emotional abuse. His and Tyler’s tortured relationship is the axis on which “Twisted” turns. The familial clashes feel suffocatingly, terrifyingly authentic here — and ultimately help keep the tension high when Tyler is accused of posting photos of a drunk and naked Bethany online.
“Twisted” is not another “Speak.” It charts a less original narrative course, and the resolution is too pat — a happy ending that doesn’t quite convince. And Tyler’s voice, while believable, does not lodge in one’s memory like Melinda’s. But the new novel is like “Speak” in one important respect: flaws aside, it’s the kind of book that some readers, particularly boys, will keep under their beds for years, turning to it again and again for comfort and a sense of solidarity. “Twisted” is a story that allows boys their sensitivity. Guys may not admit they need such stories, but they do.
In “Speak,” Melinda fantasizes about the things she might say but never does. In “Twisted” the fantasies are different — they are physical. Tyler imagines blowing up the school (at 3 a.m. so no one will get hurt) and pounding on his father. The way he works through his destructive thoughts is active, too. At a critical moment of intense pain, Tyler and Yoda go to the batting cage rather than talk. Toward the end of the book, Tyler tells his tormenter, “A real man faces his conflicts.” That confrontation may involve talking, but the implication throughout the book is that facing one’s conflicts is, for men, largely a nonverbal affair.
This conception of masculinity strikes me as simplistic (to be fair, I am kind of a wimp). But there is room in this world for more than one way of being a guy. What Anderson finds in this book is a way to celebrate the urges traditionally associated with male adolescence — for sex, for domination, for power — without glorifying violence or misogyny. Many teenagers will appreciate that, especially those who, like Tyler, are finding their way in a world suspicious of them.
So, no, this is not a book for children. Of course it isn’t. These days, hardly any worthwhile book on the young adult shelves is.
John Green is the author of “Looking for Alaska” and “An Abundance of Katherines.”
Correction: June 17, 2007
A review on June 3 about “Twisted,” by Laurie Halse Anderson, misstated the given name in two references for a character in “Speak,” another book by the same author. As noted elsewhere in the review, it is Melinda Sordino, not Miranda.