I’ve been a kind-of sideline fan of Laurie Halse Anderson for a couple of years now. I’ve read Fever 1793 and Wintergirls, and I liked them okay. Anderson is a decent storyteller and she likes to write about difficult subjects.
Twisted is no different.
It’s about a boy named Tyler, a boy trying to find his way in the world without a true role model. I mean, his dad is still in the picture, but the dude is just about as abusive as a parent can be without actually beating the crap out of his kids. Tyler is Con.Fused. And it seems like everything he tries to do right turns out wrong. His crush on the popular girl (who also happens to be the daughter of his dad’s boss) is the one thing that keeps him going. And when she starts to be nice to him, he believes he just may have a shot. But Tyler has a reputation in town thanks to a prank he pulled last year, and when a party leads to a police investigation, Ty realizes just how flimsy relationships can be. He’s tired. He’s had enough of being picked on and blamed and accused. So he decides to do something about it.
Listen, it’s a good book. But I’m not gonna lie to you, either: the ending is trite. It could have been a powerful book, a scary book, a book that made teens stop and think, a book that deserved this opening page:
Seriously, when I saw that, I thought, “Aha! Now we’re going to get into the nitty gritty.”
Well, we didn’t. Not so much. I mean, we got to the nitty gritty from maybe a 12-year-old’s standpoint, but we didn’t get to Real Life nitty gritty. In fact, the ending was so trite I almost through the book through a window. No, really, I tossed it across the room and it hit a window. Because the book is about teen depression and abuse and suicide and I expected a little more Real from it. Real life doesn’t always (actually, it seldom does) work out like it worked out in the book. This book would be a good starting-off point for a discussion about suicide with your younger teens who aren’t depressed, but I wouldn’t recommend giving it to someone who is already depressed or suffering from abuse. I feel like it would just point out to them how their own situation is not unfolding in the same way. And it could make things worse.
That said, Twisted truly is a good book. Tyler is a very likeable guy with real problems that kids can relate to on some level. The world is unfair to him, and everyone has experienced that. I just would have liked a more realistic ending. I’m not telling you not to read it or not to let your teens read it, I’m just saying to be careful with it. Remind yourself and your kids that while the book offers hope it may not be in the most realistic way it could have done. Then you can enjoy the very good story without being let down in the end.