Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
It's not like I meant for Danley to get hurt. . .
Julian Twerski isn't a bully. He's just made a big mistake. So when he returns to school after a weeklong suspension, his English teacher offers him a deal: if he keeps a journal and writes about the terrible incident that got him and his friends suspended, he can get out of writing a report on Shakespeare. Julian jumps at the chance. And so begins his account of life in sixth grade--blowing up homemade fireworks, writing a love letter for his best friend (with disastrous results), and worrying whether he's still the fastest kid in school. Lurking in the background, though, is the one story he can't bring himself to tell, the one story his teacher most wants to hear.
Inspired by Mark Goldblatt's own childhood growing up in 1960s Queens, Twerp shines with humor and heart. This remarkably powerful story will have readers laughing and crying right along with these flawed but unforgettable characters.
I was excited to read Twerp because of a review that compared it to Wonder by RJ Palacio which was one of my favourite books of 2012! Julian "Twerp" Tverski is a sixth grader who, along with his friends, was caught throwing eggs on a kid called Danley Dimmel. When Julian is assigned to write a journal which includes a report of the incident by his English teacher, he starts writing because it also gets him out of a Shakespeare report. Soon enough, it almost becomes a regular journal as Julian finds it to be helpful in making sense of his friends, misunderstandings involving love letters, a running competition that might squander his self esteem and more.
I hate to compare one book with another but while reading Twerp, I kept thinking that it lacked the certain something that made my favourite Middle Grade reads extremely endearing and poignant. It wasn't that Twerp didn't strike a chord, it's just that overall, it didn't impact me as much.
It wasn't that the book was completely lacking. The main character, Julian, was wonderfully fleshed out. I felt like we got to know Julian as how he saw himself and of course through his conversations with other people, particularly his sister, we got to see things he didn't see as well. Julian is a smart and well-meaning kid who gets carried away sometimes when he's with his friends- particularly his best friend Lonnie, who can be pretty manipulative.
I found the first chapter pretty hard to get into. It definitely helped set the stage but somehow, it just wasn't shaping up to be my kind of read. I'm not sure why this was; maybe because I was unable to relate to the exploits of an eleven year old boy? It might have just been a subjective thing. However, as I read on, I found myself sucked into Julian's life as he opens up about his fears, his hopes and moments of self doubt. I loved that it was set in the sixties...the subplots were age-relevant and the way they were dealt with was enjoyable.
Julian's a pretty standard kid who makes mistakes, does things he isn't proud of, gets taken advantage of at times but faces up to it when the consequences tear him apart.
This book asked the right questions, never took the easy way out when it came to depiction of issues like bullying and innocence and I applaud the author for that! Overall, Twerp was a rewarding and accurately portrayed coming of age story that is sure to have more of an impact on younger readers.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5/5)