Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Making It As a Modern Male II: YA Novels and the Teenaged Boy

Laurie Halse Anderson, author of the noted historical novel Fever 1793, the popular kids-and-animals series Wild-at-Heart and her acclaimed teen novel Speak, takes a crack at the adolescent male psyche in her forthcoming YA novel Twisted.

The protagonist is Tyler Miller, who, having tried to rise above his "Nerd-boy" reputation by graffitting George Washington High, finds that mandatory community service has turned him into a well-muscled hunk. As he begins his senior year, the new Tyler earns the flirtatious attentions of the school's number one golden girl Bethany Milford, who, besides being the hottest babe in the school, is regrettably the daughter of his grim and overbearing father's boss and the sister of his long-time nemesis Chip Milford. Tyler struggles to live up to his new buff and bad-boy reputation, finding it hard to get beyond "Hhhhnn" in his conversational gambits with the glamorous Bethany, until, totally wasted at a wild party, she comes on to him in a complete drunken passion. In a funny internal conversation between his "Hormones" and "Best Self," Tyler resists the obvious temptation and gallantly makes sure Bethany gets home safely--and totally furious with him.

When photos of the nude and drunken Bethany appear on the internet, Tyler, already on probation for the graffiti incident, is the top suspect. Ostracized by the other kids at school, isolated in in-school suspension, and almost driven to suicide, Tyler finally finds his voice and forces a family confrontation which leads to a better understanding of his father, himself and what is really important in his world.

"Nerd-boy" or "King Dork," sometimes it's not easy being a decent human being and a high school guy at the same time. What Tyler learns (and teaches his father) is that it doesn't always work to go along to get along.

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