The Twisted Window By Lois Duncan

This will make the third Lois Duncan title reviewed here in the past year (there is a reason for that, which we’ll get to), this one coming a decade later than the others, but still dealing with dangerously charismatic hunks, feisty teenage heroines, psychic powers and the bleak consequences of hormone-addled decision-making.

The Twisted Window

The Plot: As always, Duncan is the master of the slow reveal. As the story opens, naturally psychic (it’s no big deal!) high school student Tracy Lloyd is both fascinated and a little creeped out by hot new guy Brad in the cafeteria, especially when he comes over and strikes up a conversation with her, ignoring her flashy blonde friend Gina (“When Gina went braless under one of her collection of tight-fitting mesh tops, males eyes did usually turn in her direction.”)

Tracy is right to have her guard up, as Brad seems to have made Tracy his mark for a purpose that doesn’t sound entirely wholesome:

He needed a loner, not somebody equipped with a boyfriend. If the quality of her voice was in keeping with her appearance, she might easily be able to pass herself off as old enough to have her own apartment.

Despite her qualms, Tracy eventually invites Brad to telephone her at her Aunt and Uncle’s house, where she has been living since her mother’s death the previous year. Brad doesn’t want to overplay his hand, so he spends the afternoon catching a James Bond double feature and browsing the displays at the local gun shop (foreshadowing!) But since time is running out to enact his plan (which is as-yet unknown to the reader), he decides to pay a visit to Tracy that evening.

Tracy’s home life is unhappy: after her parents’ acrimonious divorce, her mother was killed in a Times Square mugging gone bad, and then her movie star father dumped her with his couch potato in-laws in the small town of Winfield, Texas.

When Brad shows up on her doorstep, Tracy is not surprised both to see him and to learn that he is not a student at Winfield High (psychic!); she urges him to cut the B.S., and he reveals that he’s driven from Albuquerque in search of his ex-stepfather, Gavin, who has kidnapped his two year old sister, Mindy, after divorcing his mother. After the local police proved ineffective back in New Mexico, Brad did his own sleuthing and thinks he’s located them hiding out in Winfield.

Tracy agrees to help Brad with his amateur detective work, and she smooth-talks her way into Gavin’s swingin’ bachelor pad and fortuitously learns from his roommate that he has a brother and sister-in-law in the area. Tracy accompanies Brad on a stakeout of their house and, sure enough, Mindy is living with her aunt and uncle. Touched by Brad’s description of how his mother hasn’t been able to function since her daughter was taken (and their mistreatment by Gavin during the marriage), Tracy agrees to get a job babysitting for Mindy and help Brad kidnap his sister back.

But! This is a case of LITERALLY EVERYONE not being what they seem! After the build-up, Duncan piles on twist after twist in the second half of the novel at a breakneck pace; the payoff is so good  that this is the rare case that I’m not going to give the ending away. You’ll just have to read it for yourself.

Which is why I urge you to check back on Friday, when we will round up some of the new and exciting ways that you can read it for yourself, and how YA Classics (and Lost Classics!) are benefiting from the proliferation of electronic publishing. Charge up your Kindles, Nooks and tablets!

Sign It Was Written In 1987 Department: Brad’s attempts at flirtatious banter are lame even for the 1980s: “Don’t try to deny it. You’ve been hired by Ewing Oil. Your mission is to check out the oil fields around Winfield and let J.R. know which ones to buy into.”

Ladies And Gentlemen, We Have A Title! Department: “The experience tonight had been strange because there had been no dialogue, and as a result her attention had been concentrated on physical detail: on the dimple that appeared in the little girl’s cheek when she smiled… on the look in Gavin’s eyes when he bent to lift Mindy from the seat, the glint that the twisted window had portrayed as tears.”

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26 Responses to The Twisted Window By Lois Duncan

  1. Pingback: Building Your Paperless Library: Digital YA Classics | Lost Classics of Teen Lit, 1939-1989

  2. I was reading too fast at the beginning and thought it said Tracy Lord, and I thought, surely not, and then I saw the part about the braless girl in the mesh top and it actually made sense.

  3. Lois Duncan says:

    I’m delighted to see you featured my book, THE TWISTED WINDOW. I wrote it as sort of a mind game, trying to see if I could twist the reader’s thinking every time I changed viewpoints.

  4. angel says:

    i just read this book for my book report i loved it!

  5. angel says:

    whats your favorite book by louis duncan

  6. angel says:

    ok thank you i will certainly check them out

  7. angel says:

    they were great i already read them can you believe it

  8. angel says:

    ok i will

  9. Pingback: Summer of Fear By Lois Duncan | Lost Classics of Teen Lit, 1939-1989

  10. M says:

    Because of your recent post I have been reading and enjoying Lois Duncan’s books on my kindle. Have you read them on a kindle? It is quite bizarre. They have thrown in phrases like cell phone and The Internet and it just doesn’t make sense for books written in the 60’s and 80’s to have these things. I wish they would have left them alone. I am curious to know your thoughts on this- I’m sure her books aren’t the only old teen lit “updated” for the modern audience. The problem is that I can tell as I’m reading it that cell phones and The Internet have no place in he story- just the way it’s written and the details let me know it is not a current novel!

    • mondomolly says:

      INTERESTING! I’ve actually only read Gallows Hill as an e-book, which I don’t think has any “updates”. Do you know if Kindle’s editions are from Open Road Media? I only ask because they contacted me a few years ago to promote the fact that they were releasing Lois Duncan’s books electronically, but none of the publicity materials they sent indicated they were being updated.

      Personally, I think that the “updates” just end up making books more dated often than not. The first one to come to mind is the Sweet Valley High update where it’s like “Yup, ‘Beauty and the Geek’ reference, clearly this was written in October of 2007.”

      Another one is one of the later Trixie Belden books tries to get with the times and has her brother take a computer programming class, so now poor Mart is forever frozen in time with his stack of IBM punch cards.

      Thanks for commenting, this is a great topic!

      • Susan says:

        The really old original Nancy Drew books (blue covers) were substantially rewritten from the 1960s ones (yellow covers) that we baby boomers read. Some of it was necessary, such as racist depictions and dialogue, and some was just making them more modern.

        I didn’t get through all the Trixie Belden books, but I love the image of Mart with his IBM punch cards (especially since I grew up in an IBM family)!

      • M says:

        I’m so excited you responded! You are correct that Gallows Hill does not have any updates, but it is the most recent one from 1997. The other two I read were They Never Came Home (1968), and The Twisted Window (1987, as you know!)

        Kindle’s editions ARE from Open Road Media! The end of each book has a nice biography on Lois Duncan including really cute pictures from when she was little.

        Back to the “updates” – in both books they had to keep inventing reasons why the characters weren’t using cell phones, and they weren’t even good ones! They would say they were broken, or they weren’t getting reception. The most common cell phone problem today is probably phones being dead from lack of a charge, but this was never mentioned as an option. In addition, in TTW they threw in cell phones and the internet, but didn’t bother removing cassette tapes, which plunged the story right back into the 80’s. I don’t understand why they do this – it took me right out of the story. I guess they are trying to keep the stories relevant for today’s youth. I was born in 1983 so I’ve seen it all- I had a Big Bird record player, taped songs off the radio, burned CD’s, went through the iPod phase, and currently enjoy streaming music Spotify. I remember life before computers and cell phones, but maybe current teenagers would be turned off? I don’t know. My 4.5-month-old daughter already grabs my cell phone!

        I think I remember reading about the Sweet Valley updates, but I’m not familiar with Trixie Belden books. I am reminded of when I was 11/12 or so and I selected “Seventeenth Summer” from the bookstore and it had a modern mid-90’s cover and when I started reading it I was horrified to realize the book was set in the 40’s. If you google image the book, the one I had was with the girl hugging the boy in front of a watery background with all kinds of Saved By the Bell graphics around it.

        Bottom line – I think the updates should be left alone, and covers shouldn’t be false advertising, either!

        • I have the updated Daughters of Eve on my Kindle, and I’m okay with some of the updates. Names, for instance: Ruth becomes Kristy, Fran becomes Erika, and Bambi, a very trendy name, becomes Madison, another trendy name. Also, the epilogue is changed a tiny bit: a bit of a bright spot for one character, status-quo instead of advancement for another, and a poignant detail for a third. But most importantly,,,SPOILER…what happens to Peter is worse. Nowadays, a guy with a shaved head is cool, so the humiliation goes further, and I’m certainly okay with that!

          • Anonymous says:

            Haha, I just googled the Seventeenth Summer modern cover and wow, definitely misleading false advertising!

            I read an article once about how cell phones have made writing more complicated for authors because so many previously suspenseful situations are easily prevented or resolved by them.

            In one of the Donna Parker books, written in the early 60s, a rich couple has a “car phone” as an indication of how rich they are. I wonder what that was, and how it worked (google didn’t seem to have a ready answer without a lot of research 😉 .)

            • mondomolly says:

              I know in the reissue of SVH #5: All Night Long they awkwardly shoehorn in an explanation of why Jessica’s cell phone is inaccessible or incapacitated 😉

              Thanks for commenting, I love this stuff! 🙂

          • mondomolly says:

            Now I’m going to have to download Daughters of Eve, which is my all-time favorite Lois Duncan title, I think mainly because of the moral ambiguity of the ending and the afterward!

        • mondomolly says:

          Yup, I had the “Saved By the Bell” cover on mine, too (I eventually swapped it for an older issue with the “freckled girl” cover)- there’s a nice short article here on some of the changing covers, although I have encountered many, many more!

          • Susan says:

            I have the “freckled girl” cover on my book (which I got at a used book sale long ago), and that’s the version I read from the school library back in the mid 70s.

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