Broken in so many ways, Anna and Frankie must either learn to miss Matt together or go their separate ways. Will they break up as friends or pick up the pieces and move on?
Sarah Ockler has written a novel that talks. The strong, organic presence of foreshadowing, imagery, and symbolism make this character-driven, emotional thriller a stand-out. Further, its high-interest nature works as a guarantee that teens will a.) Read it, b.) Engage with it, and c.) Intrinsically derive from it a fortification of literary elements and devices.
Some people may see the title, read the first few chapters, and assume this book is about sex—about a snow-balling, generational irreverence of innocence—but it couldn’t be further from that. At its core, Twenty Boy Summer, is a cleverly-titled, literary story of the emotional vulnerability of teenagers in crisis. Yes, in this work teenagers act out—they lie to their parents, sleep around, drink alcohol, go to parties, and generally put themselves in idiotic situations; but, it’s because they need substance at home, not empty words and advice. It is stories like this that teenagers, and parents, need to read, because so many of them are characters and don’t realize it. Talk about a book to springboard important dialogues for families; this is the one.
Even without an adult reading partner, mature teen readers will pick up on the negative portrayal of promiscuity, the necessity of having someone to talk to, and the heroic representation of staying true to oneself. I highly recommend it, and I massively love it.
In any English/Language Arts classroom, as The Chosen One is appropriate and digestible for even middle school, I know exactly what I would teach with this: juxtaposition as a rhetorical device. The presence of the book mobile, juxtaposed to the ultra-Puritan compound, introduces the reader to the seemingly dualistic setting: modern time period, ancient mindsets. It is toward the end, when shopping for wedding dress material in town, that Williams has the family eat at Applebee’s. Something about this setting, juxtaposed to the topic of conversation, leads the reader to a point of no return: this is a time of book mobiles, a time of franchised restaurants, a time of independent women. This isn’t Lot’s daughter. This is a little girl trapped in an exploitation scandal masked by religious obedience and seemingly protected by America’s constitution! It becomes scarier than ever at this point.
Courtesy of http://madwomanintheforest.com/youngadult-twisted/
Laurie Halse Anderson. 2008. New York, New York: Speak. pp. 250. U.S. $9.99
Tyler Miller had no idea that The Foul Deed—spray-painting the school (and misspelling “testicle”)—would elevate his social status from Nerd Boy to Bad Boy. But as he serves his probation, working over the summer to repair the school’s roof, he finds that his body, and his reputation, has changed for the better just in time for senior year. Though this should be a good thing, it is arguably the inciting incident for Tyler’s conflict, as his newfound attractiveness gets the attention of Bethany Milbury, who is a.) the hottest girl in school b.) out of his league. c.) his dad’s boss’ daughter and d.) his mortal enemy’s twin sister. But while the toxic attraction to Bethany is the catalyst for much of Tyler’s angst, it is by no means responsible for it all. His screwed-up home life is also to blame.
Tyler’s dad is obsessed with climbing the corporate, and social, ladder. He will do anything, work any hours, or suck-up to anyone necessary to get to the top. Imagine, then, the thorn in his side that Tyler—who is still on probation—represents. And it only gets worse when Tyler causes Bethany to injure her foot at one of the Milbury’s posh parties. Determined to save his family’s honor, and his career, he forces Tyler to deliver a droopy, homemade, “I’m Sorry” cake to the Milbury’s home. It is at this “cake point,” that Tyler and Bethany bond.
After a series of homeroom and lunchroom chats, and an almost-fight with Chip (the aforementioned mortal enemy), Bethany asks him to sit with her at the Homecoming football game. Harmless, right? Wrong. This invite eventually leads him to a party where Bethany, who is wasted, takes him to a private room and begs for sexual attention. Tyler, whose post-pubescent life has been a continual Bethany Fantasy, is faced with a pivotal decision: listen to his hormones and sleep with her, or listen to his brain and act chivalrously. In short, he listens to his brain; but, the next guy doesn’t. And that guy takes pictures.
Tyler’s record, paired with witness reports that he and Bethany were together at the party, makes him the likely suspect for posting the pornographic photos online. During the investigation, he is incarcerated in an office closet during school hours, jumped by Chip and his gang after school hours, and verbally abused by his father during all hours. Not long after the incident, Tyler, desperate for a way out, considers suicide; however, with the cold barrel in his mouth, he self-revolutionizes. Life, he decides, is worth more than a handful of empty accusations. With dead-man’s resolve, he confronts his father. Soon after, the investigation runs its course and proves him undeniably innocent.
Tyler’s sexual angst, as well as his troubled record, brings a force of camaraderie to teenage readership. This comfort with the pitifully-real protagonist keeps the readers on-guard while Tyler enters into the Milbury fantasy world. For several glaring reasons, Tyler and Bethany could never work, and it is with this rudimentary understanding of social classes that teens grasp the dramatic irony Laurie Halse Anderson presents.
Anderson does an impressive job creating a complex situations that adds to the complications of Tyler’s life without villainizing the usual suspects. The father divvies out insurmountable pressures, and because of his emotional absence, he is and unaware of their effect on his son. Because of his own pressures, and because he is simply unaware of Tyler’s true angst, the father cannot be seen as the antagonist. On the flip, nor can Bethany Milbury, the girl taken advantage of for her stupid mistakes, be seen as the antagonist. Only in a delicately balanced piece of fiction can Coincidence be the nemesis, and Laurie Anderson exemplifies delicate balance in literature. She creates and sustains dynamic relationships which so complicate the readers’ thinking that archetypal “boxes” become increasingly more difficult to check.
Additionally, LHA creates a situation in which a character is assumed guilty because of a prior record. This works as a fantastic method to justify Aristotle’s idea of “ethos” (credibility). When students evaluate the evils acting against their protagonist, they are forced to acknowledge that credibility—their own believability—precedes truth. In a world where character education—in additional to the traditional standards in academic education—is increasingly necessary, Twisted is an important read for high school students, as they are forced to consider the long-lasting effects of their actions, or as Jimmy Buffet calls it, the permanent reminders of temporary feelings. A tale of quiet heroism, ignored chivalry, and nearly altruistic selflessness, Twisted should be required reading for every high-school-aged product of Generation Me.
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David Macinnis Gill. 2009. New York, New York: HarperCollins. pp. 356. U.S. $16.99