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Twerp
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Mark Goldblatt's Twerp is an engaging coming of age story that is witty and thought-provoking. Although categorized as young adult fiction, this charming novel will resonate with readers of all ages.

Julian Twerski really loathes Shakespeare, so when his sixth grade English teacher Mr. Selkirk offers him to let him keep a journal in lieu of writing a report on Julius Caesar, Julian eagerly agrees. Of course Mr. Selkirk has an ulterior motive: he wants Julian to write about the incident that resulted in a school suspension for Julian and his friends. Instead of writing about what happened to Danley Dimmel, Julian gives a pretty captivating account of the various exploits that he and his friends engage in the last six months of the school year.

Set in 1969 New York, Twerp fully captures the freedom experienced by children in that time period. With no cell phones or video games, Julian and his friends are free to roam their neighborhoods with little parental supervision. Their boredom often leads to some creative adventures that sometimes end with disastrous results. In journaling his various escapades, Julian often gains valuable insight about the consequences of their actions.

Julian does an excellent job deflecting Mr. Selkirk's (and the reader's) attention away from Danley Dimmel and the events leading up to Julian's suspension from school. Julian makes brief references to both Danley and the suspension, but he never gives away any details about what happened. This build-up to the final revelation in the journal is crucial to the novel's resolution and everyone's patience is well rewarded in the end.

Twerp is an entertaining and fascinating novel about adolescence and friendship. Mark Goldblatt's humorous look into the inner working of a child's mind is as illuminating as it is amusing. As the mother of two sons, I can attest to the authenticity of both the characters and the crazy situations they find themselves in.

A wonderful story that teaches some pretty valuable lessons, I highly recommend Twerp to readers of all ages.

I received a complimentary copy for review.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2013
Free ARC provided by NetGalley

Julian Twerski is at that awkward age where he is trying to define himself. He is a boy growing up in the Sixties. He is the fastest runner at his school. He is a follower, mostly to his best friend Lonnie. He is smart. Sure, his friends might make fun of his intelligence, but his teachers appreciate it, especially Mr. Selkirk. That is why he is allowing him to write a paper about himself instead of about Shakespeare. Mr. Selkirk might also want to see if Julian will tell the story of what happened to Danley, the reason why Julian was suspended. Can Julian learn to think for himself instead of letting Lonnie tell him what to do, and will he lose a friendship because of it, and what is the big secret that got them all in so much trouble?

This coming-of-age story is told in an unexpected way, as a paper written to his teacher. It really works here too. I was quite a few of Julian's stories into the book before I even remembered that this was a paper, and there was a reason he was asked to write it. The point of the assignment was brought up just enough to keep me guessing and wanting to know what he got in trouble for. Before that is finally explained, what you have is a story of a typical 6th grade boy getting into trouble. I am nowhere near a 6th grader or a boy, but I still found the stories very interesting. I loved really getting to know Julian and his gang of friends.

I mentioned that this story was set in the Sixties. That was another part that I kept forgetting. There were definite references that put it in that era, but the story could have been about any 6th grade boy at any time in history. I believe that makes the book even better, something many kids will be able to relate to. An entertaining and heartfelt read for middle grade kids.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 11, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Julian Twerski (AKA Twerp) doesn't think of himself as a bully. But after he's suspended for his involvement in a bullying incident, his English teacher asks him to keep a journal, hoping he'll open up on paper about what really happened (and also giving a framework for this book). Julian sees the journal as a great way to get out of writing a paper on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, since he HATES Shakespeare with a passion. The journal turns into a diary of Julia's sixth grade life in 1969 Queens, in which he examines his friendships with neighborhood boys, has crushes on girls, and muses on all the terrible things he's ever done--all except what happened to Danley Dimmel, the victim of his bullying that's at the root of the journal. There's plenty of comedy in this breezy novel, including a subplot where Julian writes a love letter for his tongue-tied best friend (shades of Cyrano de Bergerac) with predictably disastrous and hilarious results. But there's also a serious thread to the novel, with its examination of bullying, why it happened, and what Julian does to try to deal with his guilt over the situation. Well worth reading, particularly for middle school aged kids. Although the novel is set in 1969, it could just as easily take place now (except there's an absence of cell phones, texting, computers, and other high-tech facets of modern life). The author's voice reminded me of Gary Schmidt's Wednesday War novel, which takes place around the same time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 19, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have seen some other reviewers comparing this book to Catcher in the Rye -- that is too generous of a comparison by far in terms of writing and content; I would liken this a bit more to Judy Blume as far as style but the writing is not quite on par with her writing. The narrator is a sixth grader and is written as such. Being an adult reading this book I found it rather irritating and distracting and almost put the book down after two chapters but think the narrator's tone will appeal to a younger audience. I am glad, though, that I made it to the end as it was a good read and I think young readers will especially enjoy it, of the junior high/middle school age. There is quite a bit made up about how this book relates to bullying and I think that is misleading. Yes, the whole point of the narrator doing this 'writing project', basically writing the book, is to discuss a bullying incident that lead to his suspension but that doesn't get addressed until the very end, almost as an after thought. If the goal of the narrative was to address bullying than I think it missed it's mark but as an engaging narrative for a young middle reader to relate life issues in a readable and approachable way this totally succeeds. I would recommend this book for readers in fifth, sixth and seventh grade and wouldn't say only boys would relate to it, though I think boys would appreciate it more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2013
What a nice present for Mr. Goldblatt. His latest novel, Twerp, was published a week and a half before his June 8th birthday.

One thing I find myself thinking about a lot when I read is the distinct split between the then and now of technology. To be true to a story taking place today, is to have a mobile phone - or a really good reason why you don't. Sometimes a problem sounds super manufactured and fake when anyone reading knows that kid would have a cell phone. That's what's great about the "before" of cell phones. Deadlines can be forgotten, curfews missed, people lost. It is, indeed, a different time with a different pace and, many times, no way to fix the problem easily.

I love that Twerp is set in 1969. When I read that, as soon as I finished the book, I had to look up the author to see when he was born. Yep, just as I thought. He, along with Julian Twerski, the protagonist, were each twelve years old in 1969. And what did I love best about the story taking place then? Other than a few references here and there about Vietnam and the Beatles, it had nothing to do with 1969. It could have been set in any year, really, which makes the story timeless.

This is the story of everyday life, set at the age where girls become more than annoyances, independence takes on more responsibility and facing your mistakes makes you change how you see yourself and your friends. The reader knows something big happened at the outset, though what it is isn't yet clear. Julian is told to write about what happened over winter break, and since he can do this instead of reading Julius Caesar, he quickly agrees. Though it takes until the end of the story to discover why Julian and his friends were suspended, there is so much else going on that gives insight to the lives of these boys that the conclusion is richer and fuller and has more meaning once you know what happened.

The Bottom Line: A really good coming of age story that can be enjoyed by middle grades and up.

Twerp by Mark Goldblatt was published May 28, 2013 by Random House Books for Young Readers. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review. Big thanks to NetGalley/the Publisher/the Author.

Rating: 4

Genre: Young Adult Fiction Contemporary
Ages: 12 and up
You Might Want to Know: Nothing of note
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I enjoy coming-of-age stories, at least when they are done well. And "Twerp" is an engaging, well-written story told from a twelve-year-old sixth grader's point of view.

Julian Twerski goes to public school in Queens, New York, is Jewish, and has hung around with the same group of friends for years. The story takes place in 1969.

Julian is given the choice of writing a journal about an event that got him and his friends suspended - or doing a report on dreaded Shakespeare.

This is a story about a different age, when children played outside rather than playing video games. It is a story of friends we grow up with. It is about followers and leaders, making bad decisions, trying to make up for those bad decisions. It is about what we consider important in our younger years. It is about maturing and realizing just how our decisions affect others, both positively and negatively. And it is about bullying.

I thought "Twerp" had the voice of a sixth grade boy down very well. Character development for Julian was in-depth and across many facets of his life - school, home, friends, play. Development of other characters wasn't quite as complete but broad enough to tell Julian's story well.

I thought the teacher's option of letting Julian write a journal and expound on different aspects of his life was probably a learning experience for student and teacher. I wish there were more teachers out there that taught to the student rather than the lesson plan.

The book notes that this is written for ages 9 -12 but I think teens and adults will enjoy this book just as much.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Realistic characters and situations make Mark Goldblatt's "Twerp" not only an engaging, entertaining book, but also one that contains a powerful message. Set in the late 1960's, this work reminds more mature readers of the innocence of the time - no cell phones, video games, or technology that act as substitutes for personal interaction. Goldblatt's spot-on memory of being a sixth grader; the pitfalls and joys of adolescence; and the main character's personal growth make this work of young adult fiction one that individuals of all ages can read and enjoy.

Julian Twerski - "Twerp" - is the fastest runner in PS23; he is intelligent, loyal to his friends, and a follower. As the result of an incident involving "Danley Dimmit", his English teacher Mr. Selkirk, gives "Twerp" the option of writing a journal about what occurred or of reading Shakespeare along with the rest of his class. Julian hates Shakespeare and opts for the writing assignment. Through his words, the reader is drawn into a year-long narrative that culminates in "Twerp" finally revealing what happened and taking responsibility for his actions.

"Twerp" is a well-written book; it is humorous, poignant and, in the end, packs a powerful message about the pitfalls of bullying, of its consequences for the victim, and finally, of the impact of following the pack even when you know their actions are wrong. I recommend "Twerp" - it is a fine novel for all ages.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
As this story ambles along it picks up weight and momentum such that the ending, while not shocking, has serious and satisfying impact. Our hero comes to grips with his act of thoughtless cruelty, and all emerge sadder but wiser. If you're going to take a middle grade reader through a dramatic wringer, you should at least wind up with a hopeful and affirmative ending, and that's what you get here. The hero's act of careless bullying is at just the right level of misbehavior to allow for a positive message without unrealistic or exaggerated drama.

That said, the other great appeal of this book is our hero's voice. Authors who try to really and truly capture an authentic young voice can end up with a bland and superficial narrative. Authors who overshoot the mark just come across as condescending or patronizing adults trying to "pass" as kids. Our author here does a good job of creating a character who sounds and feels like a kid, but whose thoughts and words suggest the hidden operation of an older and wiser guiding intellect.

Not to get all hoity-toity, but this is tough stuff to write. The easy way out is to write this kind of story as the memoir of an adult, which allows for an adult voice that rearranges childhood memories. The hard way is to write the story in real time, as though directly from the kid narrator. When this works it seems to be more likely to grab and hold a kid reader's attention, or I guess that's at least the hope. I don't know if that really works or not, but this book seems to be a popular item at the kids library, so I'm hoping so.

As an adult reader I thought this had some nice authentic. memorable and nostalgic touches, so I'm good with that. This is an ambitious book, and certainly worth consideration.

Please note that I received a free ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2013
Mark Goldblatt could very well still be a sixth grader at heart! Twerp is the perfect book to engage pre-teens, tweens, and even grandparents with its delightful cast of characters who are as real as real can get! Young Julian Twerski is a boy growing up in New York in the late 1960's, when it was still okay to play all day, hanging with your buddies, and just being a kid, following the crowd, having fun! But what happens when you follow the crowd and you become part of something so terrible that you won't even talk about it, even though it cost you a one week suspension from school? If you are fortunate enough to have a teacher like Julian did, you end up having to keep a journal of your day to day activities until you finally get to the heart of the assignment and must face the full reality of what you did. You must admit you were part of a group of bullies who were brutally cruel to a defenseless, mentally impaired young boy.
Twerp is written through the eyes and mind of Julian, no filters, just a boy's view of the day to day life in the neighborhood. There are laugh out loud moments, gasping moments and moments that make you proud of Julian for his frank honesty. I actually re-read parts to my husband, they were THAT good! His journal entries are true gems, innocence and daring intermixed equally, as he details his day to day life, until he knows he can no longer avoid writing about `the incident.'
I honestly cannot think of anyone who wouldn't benefit from the pure entertainment and joy of reading this book, just the walk down memory lane, revisiting the adventures and pains of youth are a trip well worth taking, the lesson learned, priceless.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2013
I received Twerp from Netgalley for free in exchange for an honest review. This has not influenced my opinion of this book in any way.

3.5 Stars

Honestly, had it not been for Netgalley sending me an invitation to read this book, I may not have chosen to pick it up, and I would have really missed out on something great so I am thankful they did. Twerp was a funny, at times sad, thought-provoking, and quick read with a great message about bullying. I enjoyed it very much.
Julian has been suspended for an incident that got him suspended. Upon coming back to school, he is given an assignment from a teacher to write in a journal about the incident, and in return he can get out of reading Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and writing a report about it. He hates Shakespeare so he is more than happy to do write in he journal. Only he doesn't want to write about the one thing he is supposed to be writing about. So he writes about what is going on in his day to day life instead.

I really liked Julian a lot. He is a smart kid who makes dumb mistakes sometimes, like throwing a rock at a bird, which he then cried for after it was injured and took it home to care for it. These mistakes are usually things he has been pressured into doing, typically by Lonnie. I wasn't a fan of Lonnie at all. Lonnie is Julian's best friend, but in my opinion he isn't a very good friend to Julian. I know boys will be boys and they do stupid things sometimes, but I feel like all of the mean-spirited ideas came from Lonnie, the worst being the incident with Stanley "Danley Dimmel" Stimmel. Julian seems to constantly stick up for Lonnie, saying he's the greatest guy he knows, and especially after what Lonnie says about his own mother, I just kept wishing Julian would kick him to the curb. And quite honestly, I'm not really sure if we are supposed to be okay with Lonnie at the end or not. That bothered me more than anything else about this book.

Overall, this was a quick and easy book to read. Some of the stories of the shenanigans he and his friends got into were pretty funny. If you enjoy middle grade books or coming of age type books, this is definitely a good pick. It would be good for kids to understand bullying and how hurtful it can be, even when they think they are "just kidding around."
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