The "Twisted" Life of a High School Student

Laurie Halse Anderson. Twisted. New York, New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2007.

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High school students all seem to follow unspoken rules for social interactions; keep to your group and stay in your place. The social stratification in high schools is common, and many have lived through similar high school experiences as part of the social hierarchy. The "popular kids" felt invincible and the "geeks" just wanted to bridge the social gap and become popular. For Tyler Miller climbing the social ladder seemed to be a real possibility. "People had ignored me when I was Nerd Boy, but that changed after I was arrested." The manual labor he did as community service for his "Foul Deed" changed him from scrawny to brawny. His new physique was about to make the most popular girl in school, Bethany Milbury, fall for him; giving him free reign into the world of the popular kids. However, the transformation from his former video gaming, geek self was something less than a high school fairytale.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson is the story of Tyler’s transition into manhood. “Everybody told me to be a man. Nobody told me how.” Tyler is caught up in finding his new place in the social hierarchy of high school, and at the same time he faces run-ins with the law, false accusations, and emotional abuse at home. Tyler wrestles with thoughts of suicide and running away while trying to sort out the chaos that his life has become. It is set parallel to Tyler's video game "Tophet" in which one plays a demon fighting in hell and against the "Lord of Darkness". The videogame provides an interesting perspective on the duality of good vs. evil in a context that teens can relate to.

While the themes addressed in Twisted are somewhat controversial, they carry great moral significance an relevance for a teenage audience. By placing the reader in the social constructions of high school, the book allows the reader to experience different social dynamics than their own. The character Tyler Miller acts as a representation of any teenager who has ever been labeled “troubled”. The story allows teens to see adversity overcome. It is a candid story of challenges and controversies facing teens; it shows that, like Tyler, one can overcome adversity. It gives students the knowledge that whatever they may face in life, they can over come if they "Choose wisely."

Recommendations for Teachers
Before an educator were to begin Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Twisted” they must make sure they have a strong argument as to why they are teaching it and what points they want to get across. On the first page of this novel there is a note from the author reading: “Note: This is not a book for children.” If a parent or guardian were to see this they may question you’re reasoning for teaching it.
So, my first step in teaching this book would be to send a letter of permission and a note explaining to the parents why this book is not suitable for children. I would also warn the students of the contents of the book such as bullying, teenage dating, emotional abuse, and the issue of contemplating suicide to make sure they are comfortable with reading this book. A high school student may come across one of these topics in their four years in high school, or for some, even in middle school. Although it is not likely for a student to be able to compare themselves with every issue the lead character, Tyler, is dealing with, at least one issue may hit home.
For instances, the first problem the students will recognize while reading the novel is bullying. Tyler was a victim of bullying, and despite growing to be the tallest in his grade and gaining 60 pounds, the bullying continued. Bullying is an issue you can find in any school or group of friends. At least one person in their high school career has been a “bully-er” or a “bully-ee.” This could be the main topic of discussion. You can talk to the class about Tyler’s reaction to bullying and compare them with the way they feel, whether they are being the one bullied or not.
The next few issues may be a little harder to approach then something as common as bullying such as suicide. A few cases of bullying have lead to suicide which is important to stress. Each person reacts to bullying in a different way, some may just take it and others may fight back. The importance of this novel is that Tyler learns to take his life in his own hands. He contemplates suicide, but decides to take matters in to his own hands and stand up for himself. No matter what, suicide is always a hard thing to talk about. One thing as a teacher you might get across is how bullying affects student. Those popular kids who terrorize those who aren’t exactly like them, may see how their actions are hurting others. On this note I would tell the class that if they are having thoughts about suicide to talk to someone about it.
Unlike most books students read in an English class, Twisted is one that may encourage students to read it. Not only does in contain important issues that must be discussed as a class but it follows the relationship (or lack thereof) between Tyler and the most popular girl and school, and follows Tyler on the journey from being a delinquent to a grown man. Students will laugh, they will hurt, and they will be able to relate to Tyler as they read this book.

About Laurie Halse Anderson
laurie_Halse_Anderson.jpgLaurie Halse Anderson was born on October 23rd, 1961 in Potsdam, New York. She started her career as a freelance reporter. It was around this same time that Laurie began to write books but became discouraged after receiving hundreds of rejection letters. It wasn’t until after she joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) that doors started to open for her.

Laurie started as a picture book writer but is best known for her Young Adult novels. Her most popular novel, Speak, was a National Book Award Finalist and a Printz Honor book. Her second book, Catalyst, won the American Library Association’s Best Book for Young Adults award. Laurie’s Twisted, published in 2007, also won the American Library Association’s Best Book for Young Adults award and was named to the International Reading Association’s Young Adults’ Choice list. In July of 2009, Laurie received the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award for Catalyst, Fever1793 and Speak.

Laurie currently lives in New York with her husband, Scot, and her four children.

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For more information on Laurie Halse Anderson, visit her webpage.

Books by Laurie Halse Anderson:
wintergirls.jpg twisted.jpg prom.jpg catalyst.jpg Speak.jpg fever.jpg chains.jpg

Multimedia (Video or Audio)

Laurie Halse Anderson responds about her writing experience and she answers the one questions she was shocked no one had asked her about "Twisted."

An interesting & fun trailer created for the book "Twisted."

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