Tyler Miller has never been popular. He's a self-described "piece of drywall". Invisible. Boring.
But when he's caught for graffiting* the school -- five cans worth -- he gets some attention. And when he begins his senior year newly buff from his landscaping job (that he had to get to pay for the vandalism), he gets even more.
The most amazing thing about being noticed is who's doing the noticing: Bethany Milbury, the Queen Bee of George Washington High.
After an especially wild party, Things Get Ugly.
Oh, and I haven't even mentioned his home life:
Miller men were disciplined. Miller men followed rules. Miller men toughed it out, they ate dirt and went for the kill.
That last one was a real quote. Dad said it to me when I was eleven, after I lost the Little League championship. The ball had been hit square to the shortstop and I took too much of a lead so I was trapped between third and home. Dad screamed for me to go, so I went, and I slid and was tagged by the catcher.
Grandpa Miller told Dad I was a pansy for not taking out the catcher's legs and I didn't want it bad enough and Dad agreed with him. Mom lost it in a very controlled way and told them they were both lunatics. She dragged me and Hannah home so I missed the team going for hot dogs after the game.
Yep. There's a whole lot going on here. It explores class, popularity, emotional and verbal abuse, sibling relationships, alcoholism, depression, friendship, various kinds of pressure and What It Means To Be A Man. All that and I think I'm missing one. At least one.
Tyler's relationship with his sister felt spot-on, as did the relationship between his parents. I found Bethany Milbury intriguing -- especially that in that one moment** -- but I thought that her brother was a bit of a moustache-twirler***.
I'd definitely give it to teen fans of Inexcusable and Breathing Underwater -- Twisted deals with similar themes, but Tyler walks the line that Keir and Nick both cross. He's more likable, and I think that will make the book a bit more accessible to a larger audience than the other two****.
*Yeah, I'm not too sure if that's actually a word, either. Work with me.
**SPOILER: When she almost walks into Tyler's ISS room. (Yes, it wasn't technically In-School Suspension, but it might as well have been.)
***You know. Two-dimensional villain. Though I do think that if LHA decided to write a book from Bethany's perspective, we'd see that there's more to Chip. Then again, maybe the guy is just a jerk.
****I mean, I personally think that Inexcusable is brilliant, but I've heard a lot of people (and not just teens) say that they couldn't finish it because they felt so strongly about Keir.