Title: Twerp by Mark Goldblatt
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Historical (60s), Fiction
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: A
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
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 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 powerful writing that will have readers laughing and crying right along with these flawed but unforgettable characters.
Mark Goldblatt’s Twerp is an engaging coming of age story that is witty and thought-provoking. Although categorized as young adult fiction, this charming novel will resonate with readers of all ages.
Julian Twerski really loathes Shakespeare, so when his sixth grade English teacher Mr. Selkirk offers him to let him keep a journal in lieu of writing a report on Julius Caesar, Julian eagerly agrees. Of course Mr. Selkirk has an ulterior motive: he wants Julian to write about the incident that resulted in a school suspension for Julian and his friends. Instead of writing about what happened to Danley Dimmel, Julian gives a pretty captivating account of the various exploits that he and his friends engage in the last six months of the school year.
Set in 1969 New York, Twerp fully captures the freedom experienced by children in that time period. With no cell phones or video games, Julian and his friends are free to roam their neighborhoods with little parental supervision. Their boredom often leads to some creative adventures that sometimes end with disastrous results. In journaling his various escapades, Julian often gains valuable insight about the consequences of their actions.
Julian does an excellent job deflecting Mr. Selkirk’s (and the reader’s) attention away from Danley Dimmel and the events leading up to Julian’s suspension from school. Julian makes brief references to both Danley and the suspension, but he never gives away any details about what happened. This build-up to the final revelation in the journal is crucial to the novel’s resolution and everyone’s patience is well rewarded in the end.
Twerp is an entertaining and fascinating novel about adolescence and friendship. Mark Goldblatt’s humorous look into the inner working of a child’s mind is as illuminating as it is amusing. As the mother of two sons, I can attest to the authenticity of both the characters and the crazy situations they find themselves in.
A wonderful story that teaches some pretty valuable lessons, I highly recommend Twerp to readers of all ages.