Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson.

This is another great character study for teens, except this one features a male protagonist.  At first I was worried about Laurie Halse Anderson writing a male lead, but I should have realized that it is because she nails her female characters so well that I could relax and just enjoy.

Tyler is a teen who got caught spraypainting the school.  He left his wallet behind.  So now he is considered the biggest loser in the school.  That is until his new bad boy status gets him the attention of one of the hottest girls in town.  His family life is troubled, his best friend goes by the name of Yoda and is dating his younger sister, and Tyler is faced with a life that goes up and down like a rollercoaster ride.  When he is accused of putting compromising photos of his girlfriend up online, Tyler has to decide whether it is worth living the life of a pariah once again. 

This book grabs you from the first page and never lets you go.  Relentless, deep and almost overwhelming, readers will understand the loser’s life that Tyler is living.  The characterization of every character from Tyler to his broken father to his younger sister to Yoda is spot on and reads perfectly.  They are far from cardboard characters, each displaying the wounds that they carry with them much as Tyler does.  Additionally, I enjoyed the fact that teen sexuality is addressed in a matter-of-fact way and with a great deal of humor. 

Readers of her previous novels will flock to this one, but make sure to get it into the hands of boys as well.  The knot-filled life that Tyler leads is one that many teens will recognize. 

Grief Girl

Grief Girl: my true story by Erin Vincent.

As a teen I was obsessed with reading true stories that related to my life.  Actually at the time, I liked them the darker the better.  This book would have been right up my alley, and still is.

Erin Vincent writes the story of her teens when she lost her mother in an accident and then her father one month later.  It is a harrowing true story of grief and mourning and how the familiar list of the stages of grief does not really capture the process that mourners go through.  Through much of the book, Erin is lost and confused.  She has a miserable relationship with her older sister, a blissful relationship with her very young brother, and a very strange relationship with her uncle who manages their inheritance.  While some people stand by the children, many others desert them and go on to live their own lives.  The coldness of familiar faces is one of the major themes of the book. 

The writing is powerful, unflinching, and gripping.  Erin creates a book where readers will experience her pain and loss along with her.  Her honesty is amazing as is her sense of humor.  She is a true survivor who has written a true story that most teen girls will want to read.

Recommend this book to teens who enjoy books about loss, but also to those teens who enjoy a good dark tale filled with psychology.  Erin is the epitome of the teen narrator, capturing the teen experience brilliantly.