Author: Mark Goldblatt
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 28 May, 2013
Genre: Middle Grade
Rating: 3/5 stars
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It's not like I meant for Danley to get hurt. . . .Julian and his friends are back in school after a week long suspension over a bullying incident. His English teacher, Mr. Selkirk makes a deal with him when he discovers Julian's aptitude for writing - as long as Julian keeps writing, he doesn't have to do the assignment on Shakespeare. So Julian starts writing and fills more than nine composition books on the daily instances in his daily life which stand out.
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.
The first chapter in the book sets the note for the remaining. It's an account of one of Julian's non-misdeeds (I'm sure that's not a word, but that's what we'll call it because his misdeeds always have some good in them :), in which we are also introduced to his best friend, Lonnie. Each chapter is almost a short story on it's own. There are several hilarious incidences which made me laugh out loud, and there are also times when we can see Julian's growth. Julian also has to deal with the fear that he may not be the fastest runner in school. He makes new friends, he experiences the weirdness (this seems to be my favourite word nowadays) of girls firsthand, and generally does a bit of growing up.
The book is written in the style of a journal and it's a nice change from the usual. I always like reading middle grade books once in a while because of how much more honest and simple they are than the YA or adult books. The writing style engaging and maybe in parts a little too mature for a sixth grader. One thing I particularly could relate to was Julian's tendency to wander off sometimes during his narration. It was clever on the author's part to set the story in the 60's. The absence of gadgets that kids nowadays just cant do without and the innocence is refreshing. A lot of readers found the ending of the book disappointing, but I dont think so. I felt it was an honest depiction of the peer pressure and mistakes that we all do, and it made the character that much more real.
There were a few questions I had regarding the plot, (like, why did Mr. Selkirk give only Julian the assignment and not the other kids?), and it was a bit of a letdown since I'd started it with very high expectations (probably too high, because of a blurb), but those are very minor things, and don't detract from the reading pleasure you get from the book.
Bottomline: Twerp is a coming-of-age novel that will make you laugh out loud and smile fondly at it's characters.
*An advance copy was provided by the publisher for review.