“Youth in Revolt is the journals of Nick Twisp, California’s most precocious diarist, whose ongoing struggles to make sense out of high school, deal with his divorced parents, and lose his virginity result in his transformation from an unassuming fourteen-year-old to a modern youth in open revolt. As his family splinters, worlds collide, and the police block all routes out of town, Nick must cope with economic deprivation, homelessness, the gulag of the public schools, a competitive type-A father, murderous canines, and an inconvenient hair trigger on his erectile response — all while vying ardently for the affections of the beauteous Sheeni Saunders, teenage goddess and ultimate intellectual goad.”
Youth in Revolt is unlike any other YA novel. It’s crude, honest, and hysterical. Payne has painted a wonderful picture of a young boy coming to terms with himself. What sets Youth in Revolt apart from other novels in the genre – beside its frank descriptions of an adolescent boy’s mind – is an element of absurdity. Payne weaves a playfulness into his characters and their actions that makes for a story so interesting you can’t help but read to the end.
Though the novel deals with boys around the age of fourteen, it is intended for an older audience. Payne does not shy away from topics such as sex, drugs, and alcohol. In fact, he goes into detail about these subjects, creating a realistic portrayal of a young boy’s mind. This immediately grabbed my interest, as there are so few male narrators left to the YA genre and, of those narrators, so few provide honest depictions of the male psyche.
The story is given to us in the format of Nick Twisp’s journal. We learn that, though Nick is only fourteen years old, he is highly intelligent. His vocabulary rivals that of a college student and his wit resonates with older readers. Younger readers will be entertained by his displays of immaturity and fool-hardy pranks that land him in trouble so unrealistic that you want to believe it just so you can laugh. But if you don’t laugh at Nick’s pranks, you’ll have to laugh at his mother’s behavior and her numerous crazy boyfriends.
The delight of Youth in Revolt lies not only in Nick’s unique voice, but in the extravagant journey he takes. This is not your typical boy-meets-girl story. It’s more of a boy-will-travel-to-the-ends-of-the-earth-for-girl story. Nick journeys from state to state pursuing the girl he believes to be his soul mate. Throughout his journey to reunite with Sheeni, Nick meets quite a few characters – some friends, many enemies, and some he can’t even identify. One of his most memorable enemies is Trent, Sheeni’s ex-boyfriend. Trent is still very much in love with Sheeni and determined to win her back. Nick knows he is no match for Trent’s intelligence, wealth, and good looks so he concocts plan after plan to keep Sheeni and Trent apart. His plans often backfire and have the reverse affect of bringing the two together. Nick’s quest for Sheeni’s affection is the underlying main plot. After reading about the lengths Nick will go to for Sheeni, you’ll be rooting for him by the end.
Perhaps the most unique twist to the story is Nick’s creation of an alter-ego, Francois Dillinger. Francois is an evil master-mind, a part of Nick willing to push boundaries and even break the law. Nick lets Francois take the reigns whenever he feels he can’t handle a situation because Francois isn’t afraid to tell people off or run away from home. This book is already on a level all its own and the addition of Francois bumps it up one more level. If you’re looking for a mature, laugh-out-loud YA novel, you’ve found it in Youth in Revolt.
Publication Date: November 2009
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Teaser Quote: “My house was just searched by a Ukiah policeman! I’m still a nervous wreck. The Law arrived in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Joshi, who demanded to know if I was harboring their runaway daughter.”