Look at the very best of literature --- young adult or otherwise --- and one theme re-emerges time and time again, lending an air of truth with each retelling: transformation comes at a cost. The Little Mermaid. Pygmalion. We cannot become something new without giving something up. Maybe it's part of our lives that we didn't need, like emotional baggage. Or maybe it's something more precious, like innocence. But what ultimately tests every person who goes through a transformation is how they deal with what they've gained in the process.
In TWISTED, Laurie Halse Anderson presents readers with Tyler Miller, whose transformation from a meek, social Mr. Cellophane to a chiseled, admired "tough guy" sets his world on end. As someone who spends his days unnoticed, Tyler finds himself with more attention than he wanted after he vandalizes school property and, to pay for his crime, takes a summer job doing landscaping. The unforeseen side effect is that he returns the next school year with a brand new bod that's turning heads, most notably the head of Bethany Milbury.
But not everything --- even Bethany's advances --- works out well for Tyler. As he struggles to contend with his angry father, a mistrustful faculty and the aftermath of a drunken party, Tyler comes to the painful realization that there's a substantial price tag for his newfound popularity, and juggling the consequences lead him to thoughts of suicide.
While the overall story tackles weighty issues such as identity, family and suicide, Anderson masterfully interjects wry humor that always seems to find its mark. There's something very genuine in the portrayal of Tyler's struggle, both as he seeks attention and as he seeks to banish it. His volatile family situation --- especially his relationship with his father --- is familiar without bowing to a stereotypical, dysfunctional family. Despite times when Chip Milbury (Bethany's brother and the bane of Tyler's rebirth) comes across a little cartoonish in his machinations, the characterizations ring true.
TWISTED, with its tip of the hat to black comedy, does what all good cautionary tales should do: leaves the reader with the certainty that something would be missing in their life without it. Don't miss out on this.
Reviewed by Brian Farrey on March 20, 2007
- Publication Date: May 15, 2008
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Speak
- ISBN-10: 0142411841
- ISBN-13: 9780142411841