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 pitchperfect, 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.
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.
Character building, my father said.
Mandatory community service, the judge said. Court-ordered restitution for the Foul Deed. He nailed me with the bill for the damage I had done, which meant I had to sell my car and bust my hump at a landscaping company all summer. Oh, and he gave me six months of meetings with a probation officer who thought I was a waste of human flesh.
Still, it was better than jail.
I pushed the mop back and forth, trying to coat the seams evenly. We didn’t want any rain getting into the building and destroying the classrooms. Didn’t want to hurt the school. No, sir, we sure didn’t.
Joe wandered over, looked at my work, and grunted.
“We done yet?” asked Dopey. “Thunderstorms rolling in soon. Heavy weather.”
I looked up. There were no clouds in the sky.
Joe nodded slowly, studying the roof. “Yeah, we’re done.” He turned off the motor on the tar kettle. “Last day for Tyler, here. Bet you’re glad to be quit of us, huh, kid?”
“Nah,” I lied. “You guys have been great.”
Dopey cackled. “If them sewer pipes back up again, we’ll get you out of class.”
There had been a few advantages to working with these guys. They taught me how to steal free soda out of the vending machines. I snagged a couple of keys when they weren’t looking. Best of all, the hard labor had turned me from Nerd Boy into Tyler the Amazing Hulk, with ripped muscles and enough testosterone to power a nuclear generator.
“Hey, get a load of this!” Toothless shouted.
We picked our way around the fresh tar patches and looked where he was pointing, four stories down. I stayed away from the edge; I wasn’t so good at heights. But then I saw them: angels with pony tails gathered in the parking lot.
The girls’ tennis team.
Wearing bikini tops and short shorts.
Wearing wet bikini tops and wet short shorts.
I inched closer. It was a car wash, with vehicles lined up all the way out to the road, mostly driven by guys. Barely clad girls were bending, stretching, soaping up, scrubbing, and squealing. They were squirting each other with hoses. And squealing. Did I mention that?
“Take me now, Lord,” Toothless muttered.
The marching band was practicing in the teachers’ lot. They fired up their version of “Louie, Louie.” Finely toned tennis-angel butts bounced back and forth to the beat. Then a goddess rose up from the hubcap of a white Ford Explorer.
The driver of the Explorer said something. Bethany smiled and blew at the soapsuds in her hands so bubbles floated through the air and landed on his nose. The driver melted into a puddle on the front seat. Bethany threw back her head and laughed. The sun flashed off her teeth.
Joe’s tongue dropped out of his mouth and sizzled on the hot roof. Dopey took off his glasses, rubbed them on a corner of his shirt, and put them back on. Toothless adjusted himself.
Bethany bounced along to the next car in line, a dark-green Avenger that was burning oil.
Bethany Milbury pushes me against the hood of my cherry-red, turbocharged Testarossa. “I love fast cars,” she whispers, soapy fingers in my hair.
“This is the fastest,” I say.
“I’ve been waiting so long for you, Tyler. . . .” Her head tilts, her lips open.
I am so ready for this.
She grabs my arm and snarls, “Be careful, dummy, you’ll break your neck.”
No, wait. I blinked. I was on a hot tar roof with three smelly grown men. Joe was gripping my arm, yanking me back from the edge.
“I said, be careful, dummy. That first step is a doozy.”
“Sorry,” I said. “I mean, thanks.”
A navy-blue 1995 Mercedes S500 sedan rolled into the parking lot. It came to complete stop. Left blinker flashing, it turned and parked in front of the building. A man in a black suit got out of the driver’s seat. Stood next to the car. Looked up at me and tapped the face of his watch once, twice, three times. I had inconvenienced him again. Dopey, Toothless, and Joe crawled out of sight. They had seen my father detonate before.
"Anderson returns to weightier issues in the style of her most revered work, Speak (1999), and stretches her wings by offering up a male protagonist for the first time.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Grew up in?
Several tiny villages in Northern & Central NY and Syracuse, NY: the big city.
To read all the books in the library and climb to the top of the rope in gym class.
Desert island book?
Ulysses, by James Joyce.
Tough question! San Francisco, with Paris running a close second.
It’s A Wonderful Life, Van Helsing, Rocky, Last of the Mohicans.
Where do you write?
My office is the third floor loft of our house, with windows that look over our woods and meadows. If it’s really cold, I take my computer down to the living room and work in front of the fire. Sometimes I work in coffee shops and libraries and book stores, just to see other human beings. But mostly, I like my loft.
What made you decide to write Twisted?
Many of the teenage guys I met in the last ten years had fascinating things to tell me. While the book is not based on anyone’s story, the themes of a guy’s alienation from his dad, a broken family pretending to be happy, and the despair that leads kids to kill themselves came from what they told me. And I like a challenge. I’d written a bunch of books from a girl’s point-of-view, and I wanted to see if I could get in the head of a boy.
What would you like readers to learn from Tyler?
That they are not alone with their darkest thoughts, that most people go through hell, and that it is possible to survive having parents who are clueless jerks. Oh, and that friends are gold.
What adjectives would you use to describe Twisted?
Aaahhh...twisted? No, that’s too obvious. Dark, funny, dangerous, and honest.
Popcorn with butter, bran muffins (not too sweet) and strong coffee, bacon and eggs cooked over an open fire while camping, pickled herring.
Hotel California (live version) by The Eagles and Clocks, by Coldplay.
Favorite item of clothing?
Hoodie sweatshirt just out of the dryer.
Raising my kids to be good people (though they did most of the work).
Most embarrassing moment?
There are countless!! The worst was when my little sister and I got into a knock-down, drag-out fight at a family reunion and all of the older second cousins I had been hoping to impress dismissed me as being one of the stupid little kids because of it. (I was 11 years old.)
Smartest thing you ever did?
Went overseas, took some time off after high school, then went to community college before transferring to a four-year school. Marched to the beat of my drummer.
It’s not a mistake if you learn from it.
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