Troubletwisters The Monster by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Troubletwisters the monstera review by Nalini Haynes

Jack and Jaide are non-identical twins living in the small town of Portland, which has its very own monster. Jack and Jaide are troubletwisters, teenagers growing into their supernatural powers, eventually destined to become wardens whose role is to protect others. Tara, the other new kid in school, becomes their friend while the twins use their amateur sleuthing skills to prove that Tara’s father is Evil incarnate that must be destroyed. Just as teenagers have difficulties with hormones, these teenagers have difficulty controlling their powers. Their powers run amok, the only solution being for them to know themselves, accepting their strengths and weaknesses.

Grandma X, the twins’ caregiver and mentor, has two cats who talk to the twins when the cats aren’t miffed. Jaide and Jack’s mum works three-day shifts at the hospital and has been enchanted, giving the twins freedom to move in this paranormal world while they learn to use their powers, find out what is meant by one twin always falling, and combat the Evil that is trying to gain entrance into their world. Instead of the adults being removed from the picture – a common mechanism to enable minors the freedom to have adventures – the twins must balance their relationships with the adults in their lives.

In the first Trouble Twisters book, Jack and Jaide discovered their abilities and had adventures that resulted in blowing up their home. They and their mother moved to Portland to live with Grandma X, only to discover that one of the wards in Portland was in need of repair. They managed to repair the ward and started attending a new school. At the beginning of book two they’ve been at the new school for a week when another new kid, Tara, told the kids at school she may have seen a monster.

Trouble Twisters is a well-written paranormal urban fantasy with two great advantages over a lot of similar literature. Firstly, the teens are cared for by adults in their lives with whom they may have disagreements – both sides being in the wrong at various times – but with whom they continue to have relationships. This is much more constructive and interesting than the Harry Potter-esque Muggle trope where Harry’s family don’t understand him because they’re mundane and abusive. In contrast, the shades of grey in Trouble Twisters lead the reader on, deepening the mystery and expanding possibilities in this and future instalments in the series.

Secondly, this is a novel written by two men, starring a male protagonist who is equal to his female counterpart and cared for by a Granny Weatherwax-type. Thus this is a rare series that can appeal to both boys and girls equally. I think Williams and Nix have carried this off successfully, even with the introduction of a third youth who is female. The dynamics of the three-way relationship – the twins’ bond, the girls’ friendship, the potential love-interest in its sweetest infancy – are believable and engaging. Trouble Twisters has the potential to build bridges, helping the young develop healthier attitudes towards representations of gender while avoiding harmful stereotypes. More of this, please.

Trouble Twisters: The Monster is a paranormal urban fantasy. I suspect it’s aimed at the younger end of the YA market, but it’s an excellent read for younger children with sufficient reading skills. Highly recommended for children, teens and the young at heart.