Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Book Review Club - Twisted

Laurie Halse Anderson
young adult

It's not brand-spanking new like Wintergirls, but Twisted is definitely worth a read. First, it is not a girl book. I'm very into boy books these days since I'm working on one. Go figure! And it's a real gem to find a boy book that deals with boy emotions from a boy perspective BUT is written by a woman.

A woman's approach to a male character and the result is all way in the forefront of my conscious writing after listening to Mike Sullivan speak at a conference I was speaking at last weekend. He drove home the point that we "girls" like connection and peaceful resolutions to problems. We're internally driven. Boys need to make connection. They need to experience tactile-y how something feels, works, and affects them. That's why they drive their bikes off of cliffs and that kind of extreme sports stuff. Sure, there are girls who do it too, and Sullivan says that both boy and girl readers who are reluctant readers share this hands-on approach to life. They need to experience.

Having said that, as a woman, I felt like Anderson did a great job with bringing her boy character home. Granted in this story of the dweeb turned bad boy, there is the Anderson element of darkness. Tyler does ultimately consider suicide. He also considers blowing up his school. Hurting his peers. Shooting his father. Yet, in the end, he decides to make a turn. To man up and face up to his dad. To win respect with guts rather than guns.

In all that, I can't help wondering if that's a woman's take or a man' reality. Trouble male teens don't all blow up schools or shoot themselves or hurt others. But, is the journey to manning up grittier and more experiential than even Anderson gives us? Compare her work to Walter Dean Myers' Monster. Myer's novel is rawer. It made me feel physically ill with worry as the character told his story. The emotion I came away with from Myers' work was uncomfortable. Unfamiliar. Unfemale.

Can we women portray Myers' type of gritty male? Absolutely. If we're willing to understand it. Which may or may not take actually experiencing it like a man might choose to.

What do you think? I'd really love some input on this. I'm trying to understand the male mojo. Not an easy feat. But doable, right?

For more great reads, hop over to Barrie Summy's site. You're sure to Spring into something fun!


Barrie said...

I loved Twisted. I also loved Monster. That said, they were both uncomfortable reads for me. I do think it's possible for a female to write great, believable male protagonists. (I hope Jody Feldman weighs in). I'd like to try it some day. And I do have 3 sons....which should help, ;) Thanks for reviewing. I'm looking forward to reading the comments.

Sarah Laurence said...

As you know, I really liked this book too and thought she did a great job with a male voice. Twisted should be read with Speak. I’d be interested to hear more about your thoughts on women writing in a boy’s voice. You always bring such thoughtful insight to your reviews. I look forward to them every month. I really liked Sullivan’s observation about tactile connection. I’ve also heard that girls ask more questions and boys use more commands in dialogue. Good luck with your WIP!

My WIP is narrated in alternating teen girl-boy chapters. Oddly enough, I found the boy chapters a bit easier except when describing a romantic scene. I think that was because the boy shared my husband’s Devonian background so I was used to hearing that type of voice. Also we have a teenaged son and daughter. I love boy-girl narration, but it’s much harder to write a story in 2 voices, especially when it’s time to edit since everything is paired. I had a good reason because it’s a romantic story about culture clash so I wanted both the US and the UK perspectives. I actually started with just an American girl in the first draft, and then revised to 2 voices after writing 100 pages or so.

kaye said...

very interesting . . . your review, and the comments by Barrie and Sarah. I've only tried to write one short story and found it very difficult. It's been a year and I still haven't finished it. I'm sure you'll work at it until you are happy with the way your story turns out. Good luck.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Very interesting review and comments. I think women can write credible man/boy characters, just as men can write credible female characters. But that doesn't mean it's easy to do. Unfortunately, I haven't read either book so I can't comment on their relative merits.

Beth Yarnall said...

I've talked with a few of my writer friends about writing male characters. Sometimes they come easier than the women.
Thank you for this review. As a mother of 2 boys, one teenager, I am always looking for books they would be interested in. I've even considered writing one with my son to create a story he'd like to read. The bookstores gear their teen reading section to girls and it can be frustrating trying to find a book my son would like. I've considered skipping the teen section and taking him over to the adult section instead. I'll check out Twisted and Monster. I'd be really interested in learning about the book you're writing too. Thanks for a great review!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Excellent point--it's no easy trick to finesse the voice of the opposite gender. When I do read male characters written by men, they seem much different to me, too.

Keri Mikulski said...

Interesting points.

I think anything is possible depending the writer's strengths. I've actually met a someone who's voice was stronger when he wrote in the opposite genre.

Ellen Booraem said...

Very interesting post, Stacy. My WIP has a male protagonist--my first in the "real world"--and I'm fascinated by Sullivan's comments.(And yours, Sarah.) At the moment I'm bulling my way through the first draft, but fine-tuning in revision is going to be a challenge.

Stacy Nyikos said...

Yeah, I think anything is possible, but it isn't always easy, and a woman's insight into male thinking and vice versa often brings out different, valid aspects of the opposite gender's thinking.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Personally I think I'd have a LOT of trouble writing such a character because that mentality is so out of the realm of my understanding, and the subject matter is so troubling. I think I'd be shirking away from it the entire time. I'm glad some writers are able to tackle it well.

Best of luck in your own writing!

Gadget Terbaru said...

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kosa kata bahasa inggris said...

Everybody has their own style, different way to express their thought and feeling. Not just like what is available on this twisted book, this could be a true life experience so that it might be tough writing such story for other people but not for the writer

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