Sunday, November 29, 2009

Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp: A Novel
By C.D. Payne

rating: 3.5 out of 10 "books"

While recently perusing the shelves of my local bookstore, I was intrigued by this soon to be new addition of the “book-turned-movie” genre of literature. I had seen the preview for the Michael Cera movie, and having seen the pattern of one character type movies he usually stars in, was interested in seeing if this was just another outlet for him to perfect his stumbling loserish teenage boy type roles. Final decision: Undecided. While this novel by C.D. Payne seems right up Cera’s alley, the book does possess some interesting if not disturbing situations. But alas, this is neither a movie review nor a critique of Michael Cera, so let’s get on with the book review.

The main character of this story is Nick Twisp, an oversexed thirteen year old, who despite his best efforts, has yet to lay any claim to the “sex” in oversexed. He professes himself an only child, even though he has a sister (who left the family household as soon as she could to become an air stewardess, an action reminiscent of the lovely Zooey Deschanel in the film “Almost Famous.” But again, this is hardly a film review.) Nick’s life is characteristic of any angst ridden teen’s life; harsh parental figures, uncontrollable hormones (which present a persistent problem for Nick), and the pressures of High School. But what makes Nick’s story bizarre is the dysfunctionality of it all. He lives with his mother and her numerous line of sleazy boyfriends; from beer guzzling truck driver Jerry and gentle giant Wally; to cruel, abusive cop Lance. Nick’s own lazy father is more interested in landing his next young bimbo than finding a job to pay child support and spends his court appointed time with his son, handing out chore after chore for Nick to do around his house.

Youth in Revolt chronicles a year in Nick’s life although it hardly feels like it with all the trouble Nick finds himself in. When Nick meets the beautiful intelligent Sheeni at a religious motor home park Jerry takes the Twisps to for a vacation, he pledges to do all he can to win her over and most importantly, to win her into his bed. Before Nick leaves Sheeni for his hometown of Oakland, California, Nick and Sheeni make a pact to sleep together once Nick accomplishes Sheeni’s list of demands for Nick’s “de-flowering” date. Things turn sour however, when Nick’s home life goes south following incidents involving a plot to make his best friend Lefty’s sister sorry for sibling war waged, a Lincoln car/camping trailer disaster, and numerous situations involving sex. Following Sheeni’s suggestion to “revolt” his constant groundings and home “lockdowns,” Nick happily finds himself thrown out of his home to be sent to live with his deadbeat father who just so happens to have found a job as writer for the trade magazine Progressive Plywood, located in Sheeni’s hometown of Ukiah. But as Nick’s life can never stay on track for long, his plans for bedding Sheeni are once again delayed when she spills the news that she has been accepted at a very prestigious French-speaking academy in Santa Cruz.

What follows are Nick’s twisted attempts to bring Sheeni home and bring down anyone who tries to stop him. Even when Nick believes he is helping someone out, his plans always seem to end in the worst way. For someone who claims intelligence, one would have thought he’d be able to think things through a bit more. From cross-dressing, religion-hating dogs and illegal birth control smuggling, to attempted suicides, homelessness and homosexuality, this book is definitely not lacking in the bizarre. Oftentimes, one is left to ponder whether Sheeni is playing Nick the entire time and how the book can possibly end, but all is revealed in the last 40ish pages of the novel.

I still am not sure how I feel about this book. At times I felt like putting it down and never picking it up again, but in the end I was glad I stuck with it. If you can get over all the sexual crudity and hormonal actions that accounts for a majority of Youth in Revolt, I believe this book is worth reading. In reality, Paynes "Twisp" is probably more realistic than many of the YA stories chronicling teenage boys and the confusion most of them feel about topics like girls and sex. At least give it a chance for the rather unbelievable chain of events that occur in this story.

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