A note at the beginning of Twisted warns: "This is not a book for children." Indeed it isn't, but it is a riveting book for high school students. In fact, Twisted is so compelling that I read well past midnight as some of the pivotal scenes unfolded.
The heart of this novel is its narrator, high school senior Tyler Miller, who at first glance might seem to be a typical high school "loser." Tyler is doing six months of mandatory community service after spray-painting the walls of his high school with crude remarks about the principal. Take a closer look, though. Tyler is a wonderfully funny, moving narrator and, it turns out, an all-around good guy. He has one smart, true friend nicknamed Yoda. Almost everyone else is against him, however, especially his hard-nosed, workaholic father. His mother drowns all of her sorrows in gin and tonics.
Things go from bad to worse when Tyler accidentally creates complete chaos during a dinner party hosted by his father's boss. Tyler leaves the disastrous party with an enemy who wants revengeóthe boss' son, Chip. He also leaves with the hots for the boss' daughter, Bethany.
As Tyler's senior year begins, he is astounded to find that Bethany returns his interest. She invites him to a party, which gets out of hand. Someone takes unflattering pictures of Bethany and puts them on the Internet. The police get involved, and everyone is convinced that Tyler is to blame.
Twisted tackles head-on many of the tough issues facing older teens: alcohol, sex, grades, popularity, honesty, parents, college and more. Despite all of this, it is ultimately an uplifting book, mainly because of the freshness of Tyler's voice and Anderson's crisp writing and storytelling.
Anderson's acclaimed young adult books include Fever 1793, Prom and Speak, which was a Best Book of the Year selection by School Library Journal and a finalist for the National Book Award. Give her latest novel to a teenager ready to read about the complexities of high school, and that teen probably won't be able to put the book down.
Alice Cary writes from Groton, Massachusetts. Copyright 2007 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Fall
Dweeby Tyler Miller got caught spray-painting his school. After a summer of outdoor labor, Tyler starts his senior year beefy and dangerous-looking. Tyler's reputation as a "criminal" causes all fingers to point to him when naked photos of his fantasy girl surface. While some stereotypes persist, other complex supporting characters add dimension to Tyler's journey, at once personal and representational. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #2
Short, dweeby Tyler Miller, sick of being invisible, spray-painted his high school at the end of his junior year and got caught. Now, after a summer of muscle-hardening outdoor labor (mandatory community service for defacing public property) and a growth spurt, Tyler starts his senior year tall, beefy, and dangerous-looking. Incredibly, he attracts the interest of his fantasy girl, "alpha female" Bethany Millbury-but the line between popularity and loserdom proves impossible to cross. Tyler's reputation as a "criminal" causes all fingers to point to him at any sign of trouble. When naked photos of Bethany are posted after a big party, the police head straight for Tyler, and life spirals rapidly downward once again. Tyler's favorite computer game, Tophet, is a blatant but apt metaphor for his high-school hell; he spends hours online surviving the game's "sixty-six Levels of Torment." At the brink of despair in real life, Tyler considers the ultimate escape. His pain is sharply realistic, but suicide is an unlikely ending for the smart boy who's toughed it out this far. His decision to fight back is credible, as are the eventual changes in his tyrannical father, deftly foreshowed by small overtures earlier. While some stereotypes persist-jerky jocks, hard-ass principal-other supporting characters are more complex, adding dimension to Tyler's journey, at once personal and representational. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2007 February #2
Anderson returns to weightier issues in the style of her most revered work, Speak (1999), and stretches her wings by offering up a male protagonist for the first time. Tyler was always the kind of guy who didn't stand out until he spends the summer before his senior year working as punishment for spray painting the school. His new image and buff physique attracts Bethany--the √ľber-popular daughter of his father's boss--but his angry and distant father becomes even more hostile towards him. Despite the graffiti incident, though, Tyler is a conscientious, albeit confused, young man, trying to find his way. Unfortunately, his newfound notoriety as a "bad boy" leads to false accusations that land him--and his father's job--in hot water. As tension mounts, Tyler reaches a crisis point revealed through one of the most poignant and gripping scenes in young-adult literature. Taking matters into his own hands, Tyler decides that he must make a choice about what kind of man he wants to be, with or without his father's guidance. (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 January #3
At first, Anderson's (Speak ) contemporary novel appears to be a "twisted" version of a Cinderella story. Unpopular senior Tyler Miller ("a zit on the butt of the student body") gains stature and notoriety the summer after he pulls off an impressive prank: "spray-painting a couple thousand dollars worth of damage to the school." But readers soon discover that the author has something more complex and original to offer than a fairy-tale rendition of transformation. Humorous, compelling first-person narrative traces how Tyler's newfound happiness as a gutsy tough-guy soon turns to agony; he starts to wish that he could go back to being "invisible." Tyler is floating on Cloud Nine when he wins favor with rich, popular Bethany Milbury, but she drops him after he won't sleep with her, and then he gets the blame when compromising photos of her appear on the Internet. As a result, Tyler has to contend with the police, a verbally abusive father (who works for Bethany's dad), a principal who is still angry about the graffiti incident, and a slew of new enemies at school. With justice seemingly beyond his reach, Tyler considers suicide and running away from home before settling for less drastic measures. This dark comedy gives a chillingly accurate portrayal of the high-school social scene, in which morals, perceptions and conceptions of truth are continually being challenged. Tyler may not gain hero status with his peers, but readers will respect his integrity, which outshines his mistakes. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)Agent: Writers House .[Page 52]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Gr 9 Up -Socially inept Tyler Miller thinks his senior year of high school is going to be a year like no other. After being sentenced to a summer of "character building" physical labor following a graffiti prank, his reputation at school receives a boost, as do his muscles. Enter super-popular Bethany Milbury, sister of his tormentor, Chip, and daughter of his father's boss. Tyler's newfound physique has attracted her interest and infuriated Chip, leading to ongoing conflicts at school. Likewise, Tyler's inability to meet his volatile father's demands to "be an asset, not a liability" adds increasing tension. All too quickly, Tyler's life spirals out of control. In the wake of an incident at a wild party that Bethany has invited him to attend, he is left feeling completely isolated at school and alienated at home, a victim of "twisted" perception. Tyler must tackle the complex issues of integrity, personal responsibility, and identity on his own as he struggles to understand what it means to be a man. His once humorous voice now only conveys naked vulnerability. With gripping scenes and a rousing ending, Anderson authentically portrays Tyler's emotional instability as he contemplates darker and darker solutions to his situation. Readers will rejoice in Tyler's proclamation, "I'm not the problem here‚Ä¶I'm tired of feeling like I am." Teenage concerns with sex, alcohol, grades, and family are all tackled with honesty and candor. Once again, Anderson's taut, confident writing will cause this story to linger long after the book is set down.-Erin Schirota, Bronxville Public Library, NY[Page 128]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.