Tyler Miller seemed like a normal guy; that is, until he was busted. His arrest for in-school graffiti changed everything. Sentenced to a summer of hard outdoor work, he returns buff and muscular for his senior year. His new physique catches the eye of schoolmates, most notably class vixen Bethany Milbury. Tyler's transformation has a downside too. Bethany's father happens to be his dad's boss. Twisted demonstrates that maturation often occurs in unexpected ways and is a great read for growing boys.
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.Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger
Tyler has low expectations from life. People at school call him "Nerd Boy" or "Dweeb," and most of the time he lives up (or down) to the nickname. He spent the summer doing mandatory community service because he was caught doing "The Foul Deed" and working because he needs the money. But surprisingly, those summer activities have given him physical strength and a physique he never had before. He knows he could have easily beaten Chip Milbury at arm wrestling, if only his father did not work for Chip's dadTyler is not allowed to beat Chip at anything. So Tyler tries to steer clear of Chip as much as possible. But things become complicated when Chip's sister Bethany seems distinctively, deliberately, and astoundingly willing to be seen with Tyler. Has Tyler's life really changed? He feels able to negotiate his world, but then he collides with events he cannot control. Is what happens during and after Josh Rawson's party inevitable? Can Tyler gain control of his life? Listed for twelve and up, thematically the text is more appropriate for readers at least fourteen years old.
KLIATT - Myrna Marler
A Laurie Halse Anderson novel comes with certain standard features: lively prose, witty descriptions, short chapters, tense action, complex characters, and interesting themes that could be discussed at length should a teacher decide to assign it. This novel fits right into the body of her work, yet offers a new ingredient: a male protagonist, a kind of Cinderella story in reverse. Tyler Miller, now a senior, has been bullied since sixth grade; he's the original 97-pound weakling. As an alternative to blowing up the high school, he vandalizes the flagpole and is sentenced to community service that forces him to work hard all summer. That summer produces physical growth and impressive muscles. He can now protect himself from the bullies and now perhaps capture the attention of Bethany Milbury, high school social queen, daughter of his father's boss, and sister to one of Tyler's chief tormentors. But for this potential Prince Charming, nothing goes as expected. Too many forces, including his former social standing and a dysfunctional family, work against him until he goes beyond flirting with suicide and violence to the borders of "no other choice." Tyler truly suffers and the reader suffers with him, and yet, ultimately, Tyler prevails, ironically, through an act of violence, but more importantly, arrives at self-assertion and self-definition, much like the protagonist in Speak. The novel announces that it is "not for children," and it is not, but it will provide an excellent source of both entertainment and serious conversation.
VOYA - Heather Pittman
In the universe of high school, Tyler Miller used to be invisible. Completely average and on the nerdy side, Tyler went unnoticed by everyone except the occasional bully. But things are different since he was arrested for doing graffiti and sentenced to community service. Tyler's physique is changed by a summer of hard labor, and he is suddenly noticed by Bethany Milbury, the most popular of popular girls. And by the daughter of his workaholic father's boss. And by the sister of Tyler's worst enemy. Tyler's world changes as he struggles with the new roles he finds himself in at home and at school. His new physical strength brings new responsibilities. He soon finds that reputation is sometimes stronger than action and that doing the right thing is not always easy or even clear. Tyler's voice in turn is rich with humor, rage, and despair. Anderson again presents readers with a sympathetic protagonist surrounded by a deftly drawn cast of characters. Tyler's relationships with the people in his life are authentically depicted. His interactions with his dysfunctional family and computer-geek best friend are particularly well drawn. Tyler faces issues that are both universal and original, from overwhelming lust and an overloaded school schedule to complex notions of manhood. The way he handles himself will have readers both cringing and cheering. This compelling novel of growth and maturity will be eagerly received by readers awaiting another story from this talented author.
School Library Journal
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 . . . 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, NYCopyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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 uber-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)
From the Publisher
"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.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Read an Excerpt
I spent the last Friday of summer vacation spreading hot, sticky tar across the roof of George Washington High. My companions were Dopey, Toothless, and Joe, the brain surgeons in charge of building maintenance. At least they were getting paid. I was working forty feet above the ground, breathing in sulfur fumes from Satan’s vomitorium, for free.
Character building, my father said.
Mandatory community service, the judge said. Court-ordered restitution for the Foul Deed. He nailed me with the bill for the damage I had done, which meant I had to sell my car and bust my hump at a landscaping company all summer. Oh, and he gave me six months of meetings with a probation officer who thought I was a waste of human flesh.
Still, it was better than jail.
I pushed the mop back and forth, trying to coat the seams evenly. We didn’t want any rain getting into the building and destroying the classrooms. Didn’t want to hurt the school. No, sir, we sure didn’t.
Joe wandered over, looked at my work, and grunted.
“We done yet?” asked Dopey. “Thunderstorms rolling in soon. Heavy weather.”
I looked up. There were no clouds in the sky.
Joe nodded slowly, studying the roof. “Yeah, we’re done.” He turned off the motor on the tar kettle. “Last day for Tyler, here. Bet you’re glad to be quit of us, huh, kid?”
“Nah,” I lied. “You guys have been great.”
Dopey cackled. “If them sewer pipes back up again, we’ll get you out of class.”
There had been a few advantages to working with these guys. They taught me how to steal free soda out of the vending machines. I snagged a coupleof keys when they weren’t looking. Best of all, the hard labor had turned me from Nerd Boy into Tyler the Amazing Hulk, with ripped muscles and enough testosterone to power a nuclear generator.
“Hey, get a load of this!” Toothless shouted.
We picked our way around the fresh tar patches and looked where he was pointing, four stories down. I stayed away from the edge; I wasn’t so good at heights. But then I saw them: angels with pony tails gathered in the parking lot.
The girls’ tennis team.
Wearing bikini tops and short shorts.
Wearing wet bikini tops and wet short shorts.
I inched closer. It was a car wash, with vehicles lined up all the way out to the road, mostly driven by guys. Barely clad girls were bending, stretching, soaping up, scrubbing, and squealing. They were squirting each other with hoses. And squealing. Did I mention that?
“Take me now, Lord,” Toothless muttered.
The marching band was practicing in the teachers’ lot. They fired up their version of “Louie, Louie.” Finely toned tennis-angel butts bounced back and forth to the beat. Then a goddess rose up from the hubcap of a white Ford Explorer.
The driver of the Explorer said something. Bethany smiled and blew at the soapsuds in her hands so bubbles floated through the air and landed on his nose. The driver melted into a puddle on the front seat. Bethany threw back her head and laughed. The sun flashed off her teeth.
Joe’s tongue dropped out of his mouth and sizzled on the hot roof. Dopey took off his glasses, rubbed them on a corner of his shirt, and put them back on. Toothless adjusted himself.
Bethany bounced along to the next car in line, a dark-green Avenger that was burning oil.
Bethany Milbury pushes me against the hood of my cherry-red, turbocharged Testarossa. “I love fast cars,” she whispers, soapy fingers in my hair.
“This is the fastest,” I say.
“I’ve been waiting so long for you, Tyler. . . .” Her head tilts, her lips open.
I am so ready for this.
She grabs my arm and snarls, “Be careful, dummy, you’ll break your neck.”
No, wait. I blinked. I was on a hot tar roof with three smelly grown men. Joe was gripping my arm, yanking me back from the edge.
“I said, be careful, dummy. That first step is a doozy.”
“Sorry,” I said. “I mean, thanks.”
A navy-blue 1995 Mercedes S500 sedan rolled into the parking lot. It came to complete stop. Left blinker flashing, it turned and parked in front of the building. A man in a black suit got out of the driver’s seat. Stood next to the car. Looked up at me and tapped the face of his watch once, twice, three times. I had inconvenienced him again.Dopey, Toothless, and Joe crawled out of sight. They had seen my father detonate before.
What People are saying about this
From the Publisher
"...a chillingly accurate portrayal of the high-school social scene, in which morals, perceptions and conceptions of truth are continually...challenged." Publishers Weekly
"Anderson...stretches her wings by offering...a male protagonist... one of the most poignant and gripping scenes in young-adult literature."Kirkus Reviews, starred review