A Book Everyone Should Read Before Starting High School (Book Review: Twisted)

“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. I tried to coat the seams evenly. We didn’t want to hurt the school. No, sir, we sure didn’t.”

–  Tyler Johnson, from Laurie Halse Anderson’s Twisted


Twisted coverWell, I warned you it could happen, and it has: I’ve tweaked my blogging schedule for this week. My movie review for The Island, scheduled for tonight, will be posted sometime later this week. I’m not sure when. On a similar note, I won’t be able to post anything this Saturday due to lack of internet access, so I’ll just post two articles on Friday. I’ve got this, right?

Anyway. Today, I’m posting a review I’ve meant to write for a while…a few years, to be specific. I’m glad that this is about a book that’s relatively obscure; hopefully I can convince a few people to at least look into reading it.

I’ll start this by describing how I came to read the book in question. It was the end of 9th grade, and I had to choose one novel from a list for my summer reading. I randomly picked Laurie Halse Anderson’s story Twisted because at least it was about a high school kid, and maybe it would cover some high school issues.

Boy, was I in for a read.

Remember, this was the end of Freshman year of high school. It was the last week of school, and the only reason I even started on summer reading was because I wanted less work to do during the actual summer days. I sat down on the couch around 4 PM and decided I would read a few pages, just to get started.

I got up from the couch at 8 PM. That was when I finished reading this book, and only after I closed it did I go eat dinner.

The story just grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. It felt like the kind of novel I would write, with the same sarcastic and hilarious narration. But, I’ll stop being vague and outline the premise.

Tyler Johnson is a typical teenage kid about to enter his Senior year in high school, and he’s feeling the effects of the prank he pulled at the end of Junior year (spraying graffiti on the school). His parents and authority figures mistrust him, but for the first time, a lot of the students think he’s cool. High school can be a dangerous place, though, and one misstep can lead to everything falling apart.

Doesn’t that sound enticing? If not, please don’t neglect this book just because my summaries suck. I promise it’s good. This is one of those books that falls under the genre ‘literary fiction’…it’s not so much about the plot as the characters and their development. In my case, the reason I was hooked on this was the voice. Picture Perks of Being a Wallflower, except with a much more sarcastic narrator, a much lighter tone, and a plot that is in my opinion—and this is strictly an opinion—more relatable. I know, Perks is like the mother of all relatable high school novels, and some people will strongly disagree with me. But I liked Twisted infinitely more.

I don’t know what sorcerer came down on Laurie Halse Anderson, a woman in her forties, and turned her into a teenage guy. But someone did. Because this book could not be more accurate when it comes to describing the sarcasm, the nerves, and of course the raging hormones present in the majority of high school males. If it were a movie complete with narration, it would be rated strong PG-13 or low-end R. Because yes, world, that’s what the minds of teenage guys are like.

Now. One thing I want to get out of the way before I continue: this book takes some dark turns. The underlying message, in the end, is about dealing with the pressures of high school and how those can push you to bad places. I want to make clear that I haven’t gone anywhere near those bad places, nor do I condone those bad places in any way. Please don’t misunderstand me. I love this book because it explores a very realistic part of high school, but more importantly, talks about coming back from the worst parts.

And yes, I think everyone should read this before going into high school, but only for the same reason that you read about car crash statistics before you learn to drive. If you explore the totality of an experience, both the fun, awesome parts and the serious, dark parts, you can go into it totally comfortable. I think this book does that, and I think everyone should read it so they know what the worst parts of high school are like. This doesn’t cover all of the bad elements of high school, but it does cover the pressure involved with teenage angst. It’s one of the most realistic novels I’ve ever read, and in my opinion, those are the best stories.

Like I said, I read it (and have re-read it countless times) just for the humor tied to descriptions of everyday teenage life. There’s plenty of that. The fact that there’s a deeper message in the text is just a bundle of bonus points, in my opinion.

I still re-read this book at the end of every school year. I just re-read it tonight, even though I’m starting to memorize it. I plan on reading it at the end of every year of college. I wonder if I’ll still love the book this much then.

In conclusion: Please oh please read this, especially if you’re looking for a coming-of-age high school novel that deals with relatable problems in a hilarious and realistic way. And if you’re about to go into high school, I’d recommend reading this so that at the very least, you can know what the worst parts of it are like and how to avoid them. Because high school really is a fun ride, if you make the right choices.

Trust me, I know.

Rate: 9 out of 10.