During Banned Books Week I was able to read 3 banned or challenged books. First up for review is Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson.
High school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background—average student, average looks, average dysfunctional family. But since he got busted for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn’t believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who just so happens to be his father’s boss’s daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy—and Tyler’s secret crush. And that sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in the school, in his family, and in the world.
In Twisted, the acclaimed Laurie Halse Anderson tackles a very controversial subject: what it means to be a man today. Fans and new readers alike will be captured by Tyler’s pitch perfect, funny voice, the surprising narrative arc, and the thoughtful moral dilemmas that are at the heart of all of the author’s award-winning, widely read work.
Usually I start a review post by discussing my thoughts on the book. I feel it is best to take a slightly different approach this time. For this book, my thoughts are closely related to some of the points made by those challenging it. As a result, I think it is best that I start off with some information on that topic.
Withdrawn from classroom use and the approved curriculum at the Montgomery County (KY) High School, but available at the high school library and student book club. Some parents have complained have complained [sic] about five novels that contain foul language and cover topics – including sex, child abuse, suicide, and drug abuse – deemed unsuited to discussion in coed high school classes. They also contend that the books don’t provide the intellectual challenge and rigor that students need in college prepetory classes. The superintendent removed the book because it wasn’t on the pre-approved curriculum list and couldn’t be added by teachers in the middle of a school year without permission.
I gathered three main points from the above quote about why this book has been challenged. The first is for foul language. The second is the age appropriateness of the topics–sex, child abuse, suicide, and drug abuse–covered in the book. The third is the fact that parents don’t find Twisted intellectually-challenging enough at a college preparatory level.
I have very little to say on the first point. In my opinion, the book contained language no harsher than anything you would hear in a typical high school. It is silly to pretend high school students have never heard these words.
I don’t feel qualified to discuss the third point. With no background in education, I am ill-equipped to talk about what is or isn’t rigorous enough for a high school honors class. If anything the “2” I received on my AP English test shows that I’m probably less qualified than most to discuss the topic.
The second point is the one I would like to focus on in this post. My first impression on completing of this book was how realistic it was. I have read many YA stories in which teenagers engage in dangerous situations–such as underage drinking–with little to no consequences. Often the worst that happens to these teens is that they get caught and grounded. To the young adult, this punishment is brutal, but in reality it is far from harsh. Watching the news on any weekend can show you the real impact of underage drinking. Often the teens discussed in these news stories are left facing criminal charges. Anderson could go the route that many other YA authors travel and skip discussing these real-life consequences. Instead she created a book that addresses these issues in a way that makes it a powerful read for teens.
The situations discussed in this book are ones that could happen to any teenager; the consequences are just as real. At some times the truthfulness of the book can make the reader uncomfortable. That fact just contributes to a realistic story. Some parents feel that it is best to protect their children from the events in Twisted by not allowing them to read the book. Adults think it will ensure these things do not happen to their kids. This could end up having the opposite effect than desired. When parents keep their children in the dark about the topics covered in this book–and therefore their consequences–children won’t know what do when faced with those situations. A teen that has been educated on such scenarios will know to avoid them.
Anderson herself talks about why shielding a high school student from the negative things in life can be harmful.
Because readers who can experience those decisions – by reading about them – and appreciate the consequences of those actions – by seeing those consequences affect the lives of a book’s characters – are less likely to do the stupid, dangerous and occasionally horrifying things themselves.
She also goes on to discuss the feedback she has gotten from many teenage readers. These letters all talk about how this book helped them through situations similar to those the characters in Twisted encountered. To me, this demonstrates the real-world applicability of this novel. Students in high school are at the age when this subject matter may be most relevant. As a result, parents should be encouraging students to read this book, not stopping them.
Review: Anderson does a great job telling the story of Tyler Miller. I felt as if I was living his live along side him. His journey of ups and downs made the book far from predictable. I was always interested to see what happened next. This lead to a book that was very enjoyable and hard to put down.