Once a month, we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors.This month's pick is TWIGS, by Alison Ashley Formento.
***Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this by the author. At my first SCBWI conference she and I sat at the same critique table where I was instantly taken with her writing voice, and she has been a writing/critiquing friend ever since. I'm really proud of Alison Ashley Formento, and so happy to review her book this month.
One pint-sized girl. Ten super sized crises. And it's high noon.
They call her “Twigs,” because she’ll never hit five feet tall. Although she was born early, and a stiff breeze could knock her over, Twigs has a mighty spirit. She needs it, as life throws a whole bucket of rotten luck at her: Dad’s an absentee drunk; Mom’s obsessed with her new deaf boyfriend (and Twigs can’t tell what they’re saying to each other). Little sister Marlee is trying to date her way through the entire high school; Twigs’ true love may be a long-distance loser after a single week away at college, and suddenly, older brother Matt is missing in Iraq. It all comes together when a couple of thugs in a drugstore aisle lash out, and Twigs must fight to save the life of the father who denied her.
First line: I doodled my real name in big loopy letters all over the brown cardboard.
Intriguing. Why is it her "real name" and not just "name"? The subtle distinction makes me wonder about her identity (a nice foreshadowing for the motif of her questioning who she really is throughout). Why the brown cardboard, too? Where is she? Nice for establishing a sense of place.
The book deals with many of the contemporary issues our youth face today, and from what I've seen, my most vulnerable kids often do have drama upon drama upon drama. The conflict that snagged me the most, though, was the one of Twigs worrying about her brother who is a soldier who has gone missing. The sibling bond is clear and provides a strong baseline tension for all of the other issues tumbling down on her.
Notes for Writers:
Twigs was well-written, but at times a tough read. I've taught students who live lives like this with so many points of drama, and for those of us lucky enough to not have to deal with so much drama it can be hard to go on this journey with her at times. Thankfully there is a balance of humor to keep this work from being too hard. I also like that she is an imperfect protagonist. Her reactions are not always the ideal, but her flaws only make her more relatable.
A good read for: fans of hard-hitting contemporary YA as well as those who want to be grateful for having only one, two, three, or four crises in her own life.