Like Caroline Cooney’s Fog, The Twisted Window is another 1980s teen thriller brought back to life this year by Open Road Media. Main character Tracy Lloyd lives with her aunt and uncle who agreed to raise her when her mother was killed. In the school cafeteria one day, she is approached by Brad, a young man who does not actually attend the school, who asks for her help in winning back his little sister from her evil stepfather who has kidnapped her. Feeling restless and finding herself attracted to Brad, Tracy decides to help him out. What she doesn’t know, though, is that Brad isn’t well, and that the child he plans to “rescue” might not actually be his sister at all.
From the beginning, this story was way too predictable. It’s hard to convey Brad as a sinister, mysterious character when so much of the story is from his point of view, and it’s just too unbelievable, by today’s standards anyway, that some random guy off the street could just wander into a high school and single out a particular girl. I could sometimes feel Tracy’s wariness and uncertainty surrounding Brad, but I could never empathize with her fully because I already basically knew what Brad was up to. It got to the point where I wondered how Tracy hadn’t figured it out yet.
Another major problem is the introduction of contemporary technologies into the 1980s world of the story. I think it was a big mistake to try and integrate cell phones into the action, mostly because what is written is almost always an explanation as to why the phone is not being used at that moment. Every single time a cell phone or charger or some such item was mentioned, I was pulled right out of the story, and I could tell, instantly, that this had been edited into the story. I also thought the story went a little bit overboard with the metaphor of the window, as well as with the backstory of Tracy’s mother’s death. I couldn’t figure out what having a dead mother really did for Tracy’s character, and the window metaphor felt very tacked on, almost as though the title came first and it had to be thrown in there to make it work.
Finally, I thought Tracy became irrelevant after a while. Once Brad’s friend Jamie is introduced into the story, it felt much more like Jamie’s story than Tracy’s, and I wondered how everything was meant to fit together. In the end, it just doesn’t, and there are no true consequences for Tracy for her involvement in Brad’s scheme, which doesn’t ring true at all either.
I am the kind of person who is easily unsettled by scary books, and this one didn’t give me a single shiver or goosebump. I think the concept is a good one, and it will appeal to fans of some of the darker themes in contemporary YA, but I do wonder if it will be dark enough for them. To me, it seems way too sunny to fit the thriller genre.
I received a digital ARC of The Twisted Window from Open Road Media via NetGalley.