Saturday, November 24, 2007

repaving route 66

Some YA authors are able to construct stories that will keep a reader turning pages even though the conflict situation and structure may be somewhat familiar. Laurie Halse Anderson's "Twisted" is like that, and though the protagonist, a high school senior named Tyler, has had to work off a minor vandalism rap at his high school, he's not really serious 'Gangsta' material. He and his younger sister, Hannah, do have some problems with a psychologically abusive, work-driven father, who's been shaped by his own father-abused childhood. Predictably, the mother at times retreats into the solace of a drink or two rather than confront her over-controlling husband. Tyler falls for an air-head rich girl at his school, and endures the hostility, and ultimately a violent encounter, with her brother, another classmate.

It could be an all too familiar scenario and characters, but Anderson's writing is good and she injects the right amount of tension to keep moving the story along. A good secondary character, Hannah, Tyler's younger sister, just starting her freshman year at Tyler's school, enhances the story. She metamorphoses from a dutiful, homebound girl into an exuberant, confident, breakout personality, eager to set Tyler and herself onto the popular track in school life—though there's still the grinding problem of dad.

Previously toured themes can still reverberate in the hands of good writers.

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