Since her premiere release “Speak,” author Laurie Anderson has continued her valiant attempt to address serious teen issues through her latest, “Twisted.” Yet “Twisted” lacks the captivating narration found in “Speak” and presents a tamer version of her award-winning story, this time in the form of a young man.
Unpopular senior Tyler Miller is a socially unnoticed nerd. That is, until he gains popularity through pulling off an imposing prank at his high school. However, like most common fairy-tale depictions of transformation, Tyler’s newfound happiness is short-lived and comes at a crippling price. After spraying graffiti on the walls of his school, Tyler has to learn to contend with the mistrustful faculty, an abusive father at home and the unforeseen aftermath of a drunken party.
These events cause Tyler to lose his sense of identity and even force him into considering a way to end his life. Yet despite all he experiences, Tyler demonstrates a strong amount of brave determination that outshines his past mistakes.
As with her previous work, Anderson addresses complex themes regarding integrity, personal responsibility, family and the fragile permanence of identity. Generally, there are darker topics of suicide and the typical angst that fills the life of everyday high school, but the tone of the book remains very optimistic.
While Tyler’s transformation is nothing less than stunning, other characters in the book are sorely lacking the necessary grandeur to leave any lasting impression upon the reader.
Chip Milbury, brother to Tyler’s secret crush Bethany, is nothing more than a standard bully with a touch of sadism. Bethany is the run-of-the-mill popular girl setting her sights on the latest jock. Other than Yoda, whose nerdy obsession with Star Wars will crack a smile on any face, the cast is sadly flat, generic and slightly cartoonish.
Flaws aside, “Twisted” remains powerful by way of Anderson’s artful attention to Tyler’s inspiring transformation. His stumbling advance within the story demonstrates the transition and unpredictable nature of growth. In the end, Tyler even learns to let go of the trivial burdens of high school and focus instead on some of the more important things in life, such as the gift of friendship and the security of a family, no matter how warped it may appear to be.
If there is a person questioning the fragility of existence and how to find a place in the world, “Twisted” is worthy of providing some small comfort. A dark comedy filled with gripping scenes and a rousing ending, this fast-paced book will be hard to put down and leave you wanting more.