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Twerp Hardcover – May 28, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-After participating in an act of horrendous bullying, Julian is given the opportunity to atone for his action and lighten his punishment by writing a book throughout the year. What starts as meandering thoughts and stories about him hitting pigeons and chasing cars evolves into a story of self-realization. The bulk of it is given over to a tangled love triangle. When Lonnie asks Julian, a better writer, to craft a love letter from him to new-girl Jillian and sign it anonymously, she believes the amorous intentions are Julian's. The result leaves bitter feelings between two former best friends. As the story unfolds, Julian comes to identify what he feels is right, not just what his best friend tells him is so. This honest portrayal of 12-year-olds' lives does not gloss over the stupid, hurtful things people do to one another before their moral compasses become fully calibrated. Julian is different from his friends, as he is told throughout the book, but he doesn't see it until the end. In the denouement, he finally stands up and tries to make what he has done right. Not all readers will identify with the sometimes-despicable things the protagonist does, but those who identified with the antihero in Jeff Kinney's "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" (Abrams) but have matured beyond the scope and gravity of that series will find a kindred spirit in Julian.-Devin Burritt, Wells Public Library, MEα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Sixth-grader Julian Twerski discovers a love for writing as he documents his year for a teacher who wants him to come to terms with an act of bullying on his part. Set in Queens in the author’s 1960s childhood, this period piece spotlights a time when boys were independent, self-sufficient in their entertainment, and entirely unsupervised. Julian’s gang, led by his best friend, Lonnie, hangs out in a vacant lot or neighborhood playground, entertaining themselves by throwing things, exploding fireworks, and ragging on each other. For Lonnie, Julian writes an admiring letter to classmate Jillian, who responds by becoming interested in Julian instead. This leads to a first date, a first broken heart, and a temporary quarrel with his pal. Meanwhile, Julian’s composition entries circle around to the incident that led to his punishment. The cleverly constructed first-person narrative leads readers into sympathy with the precocious narrator, so that the reveal is a surprise and the denouement a relief. There’s a fair amount of nostalgia here, which adult readers may appreciate more than teens. Grades 6-9. --Kathleen Isaacs
Top customer reviews
I rate it a four only because I don't think I could recommend it to all the tweens I know (which speaks more to the readers than the writer). Some might find it too "old fashioned," but I think a reader who is open to reading things not just set in the 21st century, supernatural or not, or in fantasy lands would enjoy it. When I was a tween in the '70s, I liked reading teen books from the 50s and 60s--out of date but good stories and a picture of a different time, like reading Little Women, but not all of my peers liked that. When I was reading, I thought some of my nieces might think the 60s setting "uncool". It's a little disconcerting that my childhood is historical fiction for today's kids, but there it is!
And I enjoyed reading it. Like all good YA writing, it's just good writing. I enjoy reading a lot of today's YA fiction, and I look forward to more of Goldblatt's writing, whether YA or adult. He's a good writer, and I also recommend his novel Sloth.
His gang of friends, the teachers at his school, and the milieux of late 1960s Queens come together in an engaging way. Julian's author makes few missteps with language and reactions of his young protagonist. I am looking forward to reading the sequel coming out in February, 2015.
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