Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: Twigs by Alison Ashley Formento

By Alison Ashley Formento
Publication Date: September 18, 2013 by Merit Press
Source: Netgalley/Publisher
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Summary from Goodreads: One pint-sized girl. Ten supersized crises. And it’s high noon.

They call her “Twigs,” because she’ll never hit five feet tall. Although she was born early, and a stiff breeze could knock her over, Twigs has a mighty spirit. She needs it, as life throws a whole bucket of rotten luck at her: Dad’s an absentee drunk; Mom’s obsessed with her new deaf boyfriend (and Twigs can’t tell what they’re saying to each other). Little sister Marlee is trying to date her way through the entire high school; Twigs’ true love may be a long-distance loser after a single week away at college, and suddenly, older brother Matt is missing in Iraq. It all comes together when a couple of thugs in a drugstore aisle lash out, and Twigs must fight to save the life of the father who denied her.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Twigs, but what I got was a heartfelt contemporary featuring some great character growth.  

It's immediately clear that Twigs doesn't have an easy life. Her dad left, her brother is a soldier overseas, and her boyfriend just left for college. Twigs, a short and slim girl, is trying to create a more mature identity for herself. She starts asking people to call her by her actual name, Madeline, but it doesn't exactly stick the way she'd hoped. When a maelstrom of bad things seem to happen all at the same time, Twigs has to decide how to handle them and who she really wants to be-Twigs, or Madeline. 

I was drawn into Twigs from the very beginning. Formento's writing drew me in and made me want to know more. Who is the crazy lady in the convenience store and why is she throwing hair dye? Why are their military personnel at the front door of Twigs's house one night? I was so enraptured with Twigs's life that I didn't want to stop reading.

Twigs as a character is interesting. She's very fierce, but also very scared. I honestly have no idea how she could handle everything life threw at her. Sometimes I got frustrated with her for acting a certain way, but so much goes wrong for Twigs that it's hard to blame her for being a little, well, crazy. Twigs grows a lot over the course of the novel, and I was happy to see her become someone she can be proud of. 

The most negative thing about Twigs is the number of plot points that occur throughout the novel. There are a lot of characters, and a lot of problems for Twigs to deal with. There were a few parts where I forgot who a character was or I was asking myself "Is this really necessary?" I think Twigs could have been a little bit stronger if Formento had eliminated one of the plot points, though I'm not sure which one.  

Though I am very pleased with the development I saw in Twigs throughout the novel, I think the secondary characters were a little bit lacking. As I mentioned above, there are a lot of characters. I had trouble keeping them all straight at times, and I think that a few of them were just there to further the development of Twigs without really getting much characterization themselves. I love novels with a great cast of secondary characters, so I was a little disappointed with how Formento handled hers.  

Overall I really enjoyed Twigs and thought it was a great contemporary with a lot of heart. Though I had some issues with the secondary characters and the number of plot points, the engrossing writing and development of Twigs herself more than made up for it. 

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