By Mark Goldblatt
Available now from Random House BFYR
TWERP is the story of Julian, a young boy growing up in 1969 New York. He's twelve, a bit of a follower, and his main claim to fame is being the fastest kid in school. He's writing a book throughout the school year as punishment for an incident of bullying that remains unspecified until the end.
I loved the structure of TWERP. Each chapter is a vignette of sixth-grade life and reminded me of the work of Louis Sachar, albeit less absurd. But the various threads - crushes, races, bullying all work together to paint a detailed portrait of Julian and his personal growth. I definitely wouldn't have enjoyed the book so much if the incident was detailed earlier in the book. At the end, it's easy to see that Julian is maturing and unlikely to do such a thing ever again. At the beginning, it would've made me dislike Julian too much to be interested in his progress.
TWERP deals with bullying in an excellent way. It shows how easy it is to go along with people who are being mean, to fit in by not making waves. But this isn't a heavy book. Most of the other topics explored are much lighter and funnier. I wouldn't have compared it to Sachar's work if it wasn't hilarious.
I really hope TWERP finds its audience. It's a great middle grade read - engaging, smart, funny, and poignant. It's Goldblatt's first novel for younger readers, and I hope he writes more for this audience. He's got the knack of it.