Author: Mark Goldblatt
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
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.
Twerp by Mark Goldblatt lets the reader read the journals of the sixth grader Julian Twerski. His English teacher offers him the option of keeping the journals and writing about the incident that caused him to be suspended. Using the journal as a writing device is just brilliant. It lets the reader see into Julian’s life. It leads us to the incident that they are ultimately supposed to be about but not before the reader is ready to know what it is. To learn about his hopes and fears. Julian is so smart and funny but has the same problem many 12-year-old boys do. He doesn’t really understand girls. He sometimes makes bad decisions that backfire in horrible ways.
In each chapter, Julian tells a story of something that happens in his life. He talks about writing a love letter for a friend. Of course, this goes all wrong and the girl thinks he wrote it. Julian is unsure what to do in this situation and ends up going to his sister for advice. Julian worries constantly about no longer being the fastest kid in school. This is so important to him and it builds up to a final showdown at the Track and Field Day. Julian, as an adult, would likely look back on these two events and realize they are not all that important in the scheme of things. Yet, at twelve they are huge events and it feels real that they effect him the way that they do.
Eventually, we find out what Julian did to be suspended. It is ultimately shocking because by this point, we have gotten to know Julian. We know that he is a sweet kid that obviously made a huge mistake. It makes the story that much more difficult to read knowing that he is not just a bad kid. That he should have known better.
Twerp by Mark Goldblatt is a touching coming-of-age story that will transport you to 1969. It is well-written and an enjoyable read. I would highly recommend it to young readers (especially boys) because it is engaging and teaches a powerful lesson. Take charge, be yourself, and speak up when you know something is wrong before it is too late.
I was provided an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Summary and cover image from goodreads.