Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned/Challenged Book: Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Title: Twisted
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Viking
Hardcover, 250 pages
Date Published: March 20, 2007

Description (Taken from Goodreads): 
High school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background—average student, average looks, average dysfunctional family. But since he got busted for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn’t believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who just so happens to be his father’s boss’s daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy—and Tyler’s secret crush. And that sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in the school, in his family, and in the world.

Twisted, the acclaimed Laurie Halse Anderson tackles a very controversial subject: what it means to be a man today. Fans and new readers alike will be captured by Tyler’s pitchperfect, funny voice, the surprising narrative arc, and the thoughtful moral dilemmas that are at the heart of all of the author’s award-winning, widely read work.
Withdrawn from classroom use in Kentucky, but still available in the library in 2009. Some parents felt that this book, along with four others, contained foul language and topics (sex, child abuse, suicide, drugs) deemed inappropriate for coed classes, as well as not being intellectually challenging for college prep courses.
Twisted centers on Tyler, the used to be nerd, now somewhat bad boy who bloomed into a full grown, six foot hottie over the summer. With his newfound ripped physique, he may actually have a chance with the hottest girl in the school, the girl of his dreams, but his feelings have to contend with his dysfunctional family and his slowly crumbling world.

Character-wise, Tyler is fantastic. I couldn’t put the book down because I was just so attached to the guy. Anderson writes from the teenage male perspective and does it so wondrously. Tyler is the epitome of teenage boy. He’s moody and angry and lustful and beyond hormonal, but he’s also a real character.

Tyler's funny and cares about his mom and his sister and he tries so hard to be a good guy. The things that happen to him are a bit out of his control, but that’s where the book gets so good. The escalating tension builds so much throughout the story that I found myself just waiting for the explosion and Anderson does not disappoint.

Tyler’s inner thoughts are vividly raw with his emotions. His past mistake (just the one really) becomes the center of his world, the single factor that drives his senior year. Anderson probes Tyler’s family life so we see way past the pristine surface to a family that is falling apart bit by bit; from Tyler, a high school senior on parole, to Hannah, the freshman who wants to express herself and break free from her parents rules, to the mom who is fast becoming and alcoholic, and finally to the dad who is overworked, easily agitated, and constantly verbally abusive. Like I said, the family is twisted, but their imperfections are what make the entire story so easy to just get.

The book is stamped “THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR CHILDREN” but it isn’t really all that graphic, at least in my opinion. Sure, there’s talk of erections and cold showers and a scene alluding to masturbation, but Tyler is 18 years old. If people don’t think that teens know, think about, or have sex, then they’re fooling themselves. Tyler’s world doesn’t even revolve around the opposite sex. The plot focuses much more on him as a person and how much he has changed and how his family is a little twisted. This is definitely not for the younger crowd, but with the warning right there in the beginning, I don’t see how/why it needs to be challenged in high schools.

Twisted is an incredibly well-written book that’s easy to relate to and impossible to put down. Filled with lusty thoughts an uproarious humor, Anderson taps into the teenage male psyche in a way few female authors are able to do. Take the time to read this book, you won’t regret it.

Opening line: I spent the last Friday of summer vacation spreading hot, sticky tar across the roof of George Washington High. ~ pg. 1

Favorite line (I have two):
I scared myself, because once you've thought long and hard enough about doing something that is colossally stupid, you feel like you've actually done it, and then you're never quite sure what your limits are. ~ pg. 95

And this one:

The guy in the mirror looked like somebody had wrapped his heart in barbed wire and pulled. He wasn’t just a loser. He was lost, no-compass lost, don’t-speak-the-language lost.
    I have screwed up everything. ~ pg. 189
 *This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.


Jessi E. said...

This was the first Laurie Halse Anderson book I read, and I loved it! :)

Em said...

I listened to this one on audiobook recently - a really solid recording. I knew the book was on this year's Banned Books list and so kept expecting something to stand out as the real reason this one is challenged (that never happened - in fact I was pleasantly surprised by Tyler's decision at the party). I think both teens and adults would benefit from reading this story.

Melissa said...

I've never read this one, but I love how real and tangible Tyler sounds. Great review, Nikki! I'm adding this to my TBR pile :)

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

Jessi - It's been sitting on my shelf for so long, so I'm happy I finally picked it up. It was a great read.

Em - There really isn't some huge thing that makes the book worth banning, at least in my opinion. And Tyler is truly a good person, despite what many people think of him. If more teen guys were like him, the world would be a better place.

Melissa - Tyler feels so real to me. I hope you get the chance to read it.

Em said...

@Nikki - Agreed! I think the party scene with Tyler's back and forth between hormones and conscience and his reasoning in that moment are amazing and important. Perhaps the more kids who read this book and discuss that scene, the less drunk teens would be taken advantage of at parties.

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