‘Tweet Heart’ Lacks Pulse: Teen Romance is All Style and No Substance

By Erin Gray

Elm Staff Writer

As it stands, “Tweet Heart,” by Elizabeth Rudnick, is okay, but it’s a teen novel. That is the one thing I kept telling myself as I was reading this. It’s a teen novel, so it’s okay for it to be cliché and predictable.

And, in a way, it was okay. But it was only okay. If Rudnick had dared to step outside of the box with her plot and characters, this book would have been fantastic.

“Tweet Heart” is about a group of high school students dealing with relationship troubles. Will wants a real romance with his friend, Claire, but she only has eyes for an athlete who has never given her a second glance.

When she’s feeling down one day, he decides to try cheering her up by going onto Twitter, creating an account under the athlete’s name, and talking to her. She’s thrilled to finally be connecting with the guy of her dreams but has no idea of the truth on the other side of the computer screen.

Like I said, it’s a fairly standard storyline with nothing too special. All of it, and especially the ending, is fairly cute, but in the long run, overdone to the extreme. I wish the author had thought to try something new; with a fresh plot, we could have had a real winner on our hands.

The characters are cardboard cutouts of stereotypes: the girl with confidence issues, her best friend who gets all the guys, her guy friend who wants something more with her, his geeky best friend, and the athletic crush. They are the typical characters you’d find in any high school drama with nothing added to make them really pop in the eyes of a reader.

The saving grace of this novel is its style. It is not a typical novel with a normal storytelling approach. “Tweet Heart” is told entirely through Internet Tweets, e-mails, blogs, and an advice column from a school newspaper. Even if the characters and stories fail in being original, this unique style makes up for it.

Filled with chat speak and little avatars, the style makes the novel fun and different from the normal avenues of typical storytelling. It is a style I’ve never seen before and I was fascinated with following the tweets.

Now this unique style does have its downsides, such as the cardboard cutouts that are passed off as characters.

Most of that stems from this approach to writing. It’s really hard to get to know someone just based on their Tweets, especially when, as the book points out, it’s so easy to lie about who you really are when a computer screen separates you from your online pen pal. Also, the style isolates the reader. Rather than drawing its audience into the story, readers remain on the outside looking in.

Imagine becoming “friends” with an old high school classmate you don’t talk to in real life on Facebook. You read their status updates, look at their pictures, and browse through the comments their current friends post on their wall.

Maybe you post on their wall once a year, when Facebook alerts you that it is their birthday; if you’re really lucky, they’ll even return the favor when you become a year older and wise.

You can follow along with how their life is going but you are in no position to change because they are no longer truly part of your life like they were in high school.

That’s exactly what reading “Tweet Heart” is like.

I blazed through “Tweet Heart” in just one sitting and, despite my harsher comments, it is still a fun read when you’re in the middle of it. It is only afterwards when you stop and think about what you just read that you can come to the conclusion that it was unfulfilling.

I think the style of online communication makes it worthwhile in the long run, though the bumps of the novel are ever present and never let up in bothering the reader.

The Repeat Test: No, I wouldn’t want to read this book again, but I also wouldn’t say no to a sequel written in the same cyberspace style.

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