Laurie Halse Anderson
Hodder Children's, 2008 (2007)
Seventeen year old Tyler is totally enjoying his position as high school Alpha male after years of being 'the geek'. But then Bethany - rich, blonde, beautiful and the girl Tyler wants - is the victim in a teenage sex scandal, and somehow Tyler is nailed as the prime suspect. Tyler knows he had nothing to do with it, but when everyone - including his hard-nosed father - believes he did, Tyler starts to spiral into a nightmarish, paranoid state of mind. He is desperate to find a way out of the mess he's in... Will he have the courage not to take the easy option?
Tyler is seventeen and lives with his younger sister Hannah and their parents. His dad is a bit of a control freak, and obsessed with his job and impressing his well-to-do boss, Mr. Milbury. Before the summer, Tyler pulled a prank at school and ended up being put on probation, spending his summer doing community service and further souring relations between him and his dad. When he returns to school, Tyler finds he has caught the attention of pretty, popular Bethany Milbury, but this is far from being a straightforward romance. Instead, a drunken party leads to Tyler being accused of something he didn't do - but he finds it difficult to convince anyone of his innocence.
I found Tyler to be a sympathetic protagonist from the start. His voice is convincing, and I found him likable as a guy who did one stupid thing, got caught, and is trying to figure out how to fix his life. His parents don't trust him, he has one good friend (who just happens to be in love with his sister), and the sense of meaning and purpose that he appears to have carved out whilst doing his community service among a group of janitorial staff is set to disappear as soon as school starts again.
The book really gets into Tyler's head, which makes it that much more frustrating when he falls under suspicion after the party. Having done the right thing, the plot veers away from a neat and tidy solution and instead stretches Tyler to the limit, not least because his own father seems intent on protecting his own reputation rather than standing up for his son. The fact that Twisted is not neat is one of its strengths, and something I find appealing in YA fiction in general.
There are some big issues being dealt with in Twisted - suicide and sexual assault being two of them - but I didn't feel like this was an ISSUES BOOK. The idea that Tyler is a normal enough guy, who is protective of his sister (and points for what felt like another good portrayal of sibling relationships) and stands up for his friends and panics when a hot girl invites him to a party, made Twisted feel more powerful. Tyler isn't perfect, and he isn't evil, he's mostly just a boy becoming a man without a handbook to tell him how.
Overall rating: 7/10
Book source: Bought from Oxfam bookshop, Kings Heath.