My teenage daughter has developed a love of books almost as big as mine. I say teenage she's actually 21 in a few weeks but somehow the books she bought when she was 16 are still hanging around and occasionally I get bored and read one.
And hence here's Blaxills Pretty Twisted. It is your usual tale of teenage angst but mixed with murder and teenage disappearances.
The story centres around 14yr old Rosalind and 16yr old Jonathan. Ros lives in London with her bitchy older sister Olivia and single Dad. Single child Jonathan has a girlfriend, Freya and lives with his much older parents in Norwich.
How did these two meet? Of course in that medium writers are so fond of now and makes you wonder how people met before, or how writers used to get characters to meet. It is of course the Internet, which has raised a thousand bad plot lines. These two become connected when Jonathan randomly messages Ros through a social media site.
'Of all the people in all of the world you had to 'ping' me'
The book then takes the form of messages, of course its that annoying 'text talk', and from events from the perspective of Ros or Jonathan, there are no chapters as such. This isn't unique and happens quite a lot in this particular genre, the dialogue between them in the text talk is written in different fonts in order to distinguish between the two, but because there is no 'talking' as such I did find myself getting confused between the two and having to really concentrate to remember which message was which. Thankfully the messaging isn't the main method of communication in the book so its not too bothersome. When they are not typing each chapter is from one of their perspectives.
There are almost two separate plots in this book which towards the end overlap. Ros is concerned her friend Abby is getting involved in situations she wont be able to handle. They tag along with another 'friend' called Claudia who introduce them to 3 'artists' Gabe, Hugh and Bryan who are all in their 20's. Claudia is involved with the oldest, Gabe who is 30, and Abby who is 15 finds she is getting into a relationship with 24 yr old Bryan. Ros finds the whole situation worrying and is trying to protect her friend from doing something rash.
Jonathans girlfriend Freya has gone to music school in London where they try to keep their relationship going. Jonathan has worries as two girls where Freya lives have gone missing, one turning up dead. Then Freya goes missing and no-one knows where she is. Ros and Jonathan finally meet and try to solve the mystery of Freyas disappearance.
Ros is immature, there's no doubt about it, nor do I think she particularly grows up during this book. There's no revelations with her, with either of them actually which is a little disappointing. To be honest she's the mate who's always whinging when you think about doing anything naughty. She's a real 'my Dad will kill me' type of person. Thankfully this doesn't become too annoying. Her actions towards the end do confirm that all teenagers are a little bit odd.
Jonathan is the wannabe teenage rebel, he wants to go his own way with his music but his parents are having none of it particularly as he was the kid at school who got the highest grades. You cant help but feel a bit of sympathy for him, we've all had that parent pressure and the heartbreak of losing our first love. He does go very paranoid though and sweeps Ros along with him with them getting them into quite serious bother. He's probably the only one that grows up in the book and finally gets what he wants. This I found most interesting as it's usually the lead female character who gets whatever she wants, has the epiphany but I liked the way this was done.
I shall put it bluntly! Freya is a selfish madam who definitely doesn't think of others, Claudia is way too old for her age and on the way to single parenthood and a star spot on Jeremy Kyle. Abby is just a soft sap although her character does take on an important role at the end. Hugh just has too big an opinion of himself, Gabe is a too rich bum who's going to be collecting the dole for the rest of his life. Brian, well Brian is just plain weird, he likes 15yr old girls!
I cant criticise the characters, they are typecast for this particular genre of book, nothing really revelatory about any of them.
It's an O.k book, there's really nothing to complain about, compared to other books of this genre it fits in nicely but doesn't stand out. Adults are going to be used to a far more sophisticated level of writing in what is basically a thriller. For say, a 13/14yr old I'd say it's a good way to introduce them to the genre of thrillers as there is a build up to the end they may enjoy. It also has some good lessons in there which older teenagers may end up rolling their eyes up at, particularly the ones about not going off with strangers, and remembering older boys only want one thing!
The ending is good and I do think it will surprise some readers, I'm not going to criticise the book and I would be happy to buy it for a younger teenager particularly as there is no violence, sexual behaviour and swearing.
== About the book ==
Pretty Twisted is the debut novel from British author, Gina Blaxill. It was published on 6th May by Macmillan Children's Books and it is 275 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy.
== Plot ==
Ever since fourteen year old Ros met Jonathan in a chat room online, she has had a massive crush on him. There are a few problems though. She told him she was older, showed him a picture of her sister and he has a girlfriend, Freya, who is gorgeous and probably way out of his league. Still, they get to be friends and talk to each other about everything and anything.
While Freya is away at college and the relationship with Jonathan is getting strained more and more every day, he has a bit of an identity crisis. He doesn't know who he is without her. When Freya dumps Jonathan and goes missing, he begins to panic and doesn't know who else to turn to for help apart from Ros, thinking she is older than she really is. Ros has problems of her own though with friends hanging around with strange, older men but Jonathan is there to help her figure out what to do. Ros and Jonathan's lives have suddenly become intertwined in a way that they will never forget.
== What I thought ==
Although I am really into YA contemporary novels, I am not so much into YA contemporary/ thriller novels so I was a little wary about reading this book.
Before I get to the aspects of this book that I didn't like, which there are a few of, I will get into the good parts. The part of the book that I was expecting to like the least was that it was a thriller and actually, it turned out that it was what I enjoyed most. The idea surrounding what was happening so scarily real. Unlike some other thrillers I have read, where the plot is insane and unlikely to ever happen, this wasn't the case with this book. People go missing all of the time and teenage girls especially and with things like this being in the media so often, it was a topic really close to home. The way the lead up to the main event was written was extremely realistic, tense and exciting all at the same time. Really, this was the only thing I truly liked about this book though.
Even though the main plot won me over, the rest, however, didn't. Main characters, Ros and Jonathan meet online in a chat room and while this would have been current maybe 10 years ago, it isn't really anymore. Maybe if they had met each other some other way online, it would have made for a more convincing and believable story. Also, I'm not altogether sure if a 14 year old girl who leads a quite sheltered life and seems to be pretty sensible would go and meet a guy she hadn't even been talking to for very long. Ros was a girl who seemed to have her head screwed on so this part of the book didn't really add up for me. However, I can see that she wanted attention and for someone to listen to her so I guess this could have been a big part of meeting Jonathan.
Ros and Jonathan, the main characters, were people I didn't really like either unfortunately. Ros was a bit of a mixed bag. Sometimes she would act really mature and sensible for a 14 year old and then at other times, she would be a complete idiot and do something which made me want to shout at her a little bit. Jonathan was slightly better due to the fact that he was a bit more complicated than Ros. Jono had hidden depths and talents and unlike Ros, has a very distinct and interesting voice about him. He is level headed for the most part but doesn't mind letting his emotions show and I liked this about him. Jono was interesting mostly because he isn't like other boys in YA books. He isn't amazingly hot with supernatural abilities. He is just a normal teenager.
While Pretty Twisted wasn't to my own personal taste, I can see many people loving it. With a tense mystery full of suspense and a crazy friendship between two unlikely people, it has a lot to offer readers who are more into this genre of book.
The fact that the events of this books could happen to anybody, it's really quite scary to think about. The novel is about 14 year-old Rosalind and 16 year-old Jonathan who meet on the internet by total accident. Both give off the vibe of being pretty lonely and the type of people who just don't fit in, so it's not totally unexpected when the pair begin to form a friendship.
At the beginning of the story, we are thrown into an interview between Jonathan and the police about his missing girlfriend, Freya, and it's at that point that I knew that I wouldn't be able to put down Pretty Twisted.
One thing I really liked was Jono and Ros's relationship. You'd find it odd, what with him being 16, and her 14, but I really liked the connection they had. It was so convincing and not the slightest bit creepy. I thought the whole age difference between them was portrayed really well and it was really nice to see a relationship that was formed on the internet, turn out so good, instead of say, an innocent teenage girl getting killed. Sorry to be quite blunt, but we can't deny the fact that it could happen in a heartbeat.
The narrative switches between our two main characters (Jono and Ros) so that we get to see the story from both perspectives. I'm really glad the author chose to do this, because we got to read the story from both male and female point of views and that can make ALL the difference in the world, trust me. We get to see how the lives of two different teenagers (who seem worlds apart and have more in common that I assumed) can tangle together so quickly and easily.
The beleivability factor for Pretty Twisted was really what did it for me though. You can tell that Blaxill has done her research and it has really paid off. The plot was scarily realistic and I loved the fact that instead of giving themselves the titles of 'best detectives in the world' and planning to find what has happened to Freya all by themselves, Jono and Ros didn't do that. They didn't suddenly turn into bad-guy-fighting heroes overnight (although that would be rad) but did what was right, even though Jono was quite obviously going to be a prime suspect in the investigation, as Freya's ex-boyfriend.
Pretty Twisted is, excuse for *actually* saying this but it has to be done, pretty twisted. Chilling, and edgy, it left me on the edge of my seat, particularly during the ending! Although, I would have maybe liked the ending to be a little more..twisty. It took me by surprise but hmm. Recommended for fans of Anne Cassidy and Sophie McKenzie!