by Laurie Halse Anderson
School Library Journal Gr 9 Up-Socially inept Tyler Miller thinks his senior year of high school is going to be a year like no other. After being sentenced to a summer of "character building" physical labor following a graffiti prank, his reputation at school receives a boost, as do his muscles. Enter super-popular Bethany Milbury, sister of his tormentor, Chip, and daughter of his father's boss. Tyler's newfound physique has attracted her interest and infuriated Chip, leading to ongoing conflicts at school. Likewise, Tyler's inability to meet his volatile father's demands to "be an asset, not a liability" adds increasing tension. All too quickly, Tyler's life spirals out of control. In the wake of an incident at a wild party that Bethany has invited him to attend, he is left feeling completely isolated at school and alienated at home, a victim of "twisted" perception. Tyler must tackle the complex issues of integrity, personal responsibility, and identity on his own as he struggles to understand what it means to be a man. His once humorous voice now only conveys naked vulnerability. With gripping scenes and a rousing ending, Anderson authentically portrays Tyler's emotional instability as he contemplates darker and darker solutions to his situation. Readers will rejoice in Tyler's proclamation, "I'm not the problem here-I'm tired of feeling like I am." Teenage concerns with sex, alcohol, grades, and family are all tackled with honesty and candor. Once again, Anderson's taut, confident writing will cause this story to linger long after the book is set down.-Erin Schirota, Bronxville Public Library, NY Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
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Book list Tyler Miller was a socially invisible nerd (Your average piece of drywall who spent too much time playing computer games ) before he sprayed some attention-getting graffiti and became a legend. Sentenced to a summer of physical labor, he enters his senior year with new muscles that attract popular Bethany Millbury, whose father is Tyler's dad's boss. On probation for his graffiti stunt, Tyler struggles to balance his consuming crush with pressure that comes from schoolwork and his explosive father, and after Tyler is implicated in a drunken crime, his balancing act falls apart. The dialogue occasionally has the cliched feel of a teen movie (Party's over. We're just getting started. And I don't remember inviting you ). What works well here is the frank, on-target humor (I was a zit on the butt of the student body ), the taut pacing, and the small moments, recounted in Tyler's first-person voice, that illuminate his emotional anguish. Writing for the first time from a male perspective, Anderson skillfully explores identity and power struggles that all young people will recognize. --Gillian Engberg Copyright 2007 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publishers Weekly At first, Anderson's (Speak) contemporary novel appears to be a "twisted" version of a Cinderella story. Unpopular senior Tyler Miller ("a zit on the butt of the student body") gains stature and notoriety the summer after he pulls off an impressive prank: "spray-painting a couple thousand dollars worth of damage to the school." But readers soon discover that the author has something more complex and original to offer than a fairy-tale rendition of transformation. Humorous, compelling first-person narrative traces how Tyler's newfound happiness as a gutsy tough-guy soon turns to agony; he starts to wish that he could go back to being "invisible." Tyler is floating on Cloud Nine when he wins favor with rich, popular Bethany Milbury, but she drops him after he won't sleep with her, and then he gets the blame when compromising photos of her appear on the Internet. As a result, Tyler has to contend with the police, a verbally abusive father (who works for Bethany's dad), a principal who is still angry about the graffiti incident, and a slew of new enemies at school. With justice seemingly beyond his reach, Tyler considers suicide and running away from home before settling for less drastic measures. This dark comedy gives a chillingly accurate portrayal of the high-school social scene, in which morals, perceptions and conceptions of truth are continually being challenged. Tyler may not gain hero status with his peers, but readers will respect his integrity, which outshines his mistakes. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Agent: Writers House. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
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