Twerp by Mark Goldblatt
Twerp is a novel appropriate for middle-school children (and adults). It is beautifully written from the perspective of Julian Twerski, a 12-year-old boy who has been given the option of writing about his various experiences allegedly so that Julian can then avoid taking a test on Julius Caesar. In truth, Julius and his friends have perpetrated a wrong against a young man of limited intelligence in the neighborhood. The writing exercise is an attempt by his teacher to get Julian to discuss the reason he, normally a level-headed, nice young man, would be involved in such an action.
The setting is the late 1960s, in a borough of New York City. Julian and his friends frequently hang out in a vacant lot near their apartments. They are allowed to travel throughout the area without adult supervision, something that is much rarer today at those ages.
The experiences Julian describes involving members of his circle of friends are highly detailed, touching, and emotional in a number of ways. The reader is able to see through the manipulations of his best friend, and the often sad results of the games he instigates. However, even when the scenes are potentially tragic, Julian’s writings render them funny, as stories after the fact often are.
For parents who are trying to explain how sometimes people manipulate others through their words and actions, this is a good book for your kids to have. If the children aren’t strong readers, please be sure to read with them, since Goldblatt talks about Shakespeare and various other poets and philosophers.
This book could easily become a classic. It is just that lovely.