Cover image for Crooked
McNeal, Laura.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Knopf, [1999]

Physical Description:
346 pages ; 22 cm
Two ninth graders, Clara and Amos, suddenly find their lives turned upside down by their families, by each other, and by the two meanest brothers in town.
Reading Level:
790 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.2 13.0 34768.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.2 19 Quiz: 23921 Guided reading level: NR.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Clara Wilson has a lot on her mind. Her best friend, Gerri, has started moving in circles that will never in a million years include Clara and her crooked nose. Clara's parents are fighting again, and her mom keeps talking about teaching in France. At least Clara still has Hambone, her loyal dog. And her crush on Amos McKenzie, of course. Amos McKenzie doesn't much like home these days. His dad's corny questions are bugging him more than usual, and his mom's gone religious for no apparent reason. On top of that, he's starting to fall for a major dink, Clara Wilson. And as it turns out, he's not the only one... The Tripp Brothers are the biggest delinquents in town. They smash mailboxes, shoplift groceries, and cruise around in their Seduck (half sedan, half truck). They've just turned their sights on the school's newest, cutest couple. And that can only mean one thing for Clara and Amos: danger. Clara and Amos--their lives turned upside down by each other, their families, and the two meanest brothers in town--discover that honesty may be the answer...but it can be awfully hard to find. In this emotionally compelling and suspenseful young adult novel, Laura and Tom McNeal present a searingly accurate look at life in ninth grade--where thrills, heartbreak, and intimidation can take place at a locker, in the lunchroom, or in a bathroom stall. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Notes

Laura McNeal received a master's degree in fiction writing from Syracuse University. She taught middle school and high school English before becoming a novelist and journalist. She has written several books with her husband Tom McNeal including Crooked, winner of the California Book Award for Juvenile Literature; Zipped, winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Children's Literature; Crushed; and The Decoding of Lana Morris. Dark Water is her first solo title and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-12. Ninth-graders Clara Wilson and Amos McKenzie have been quietly admiring each other from afar for months. When both experience personal loss, they turn to each other and find romance. However, the menacing Tripp brothers, Charles and Eddie, who delight in terrorizing people, have decided to make Clara and Amos their current targets. This book is a quiet pleasure; it's a character-driven novel with complex, interesting, real people; and the McNeals have an uncanny ear for teen dialogue as well as a sense of the painful rejection that social cliques inflict on the less popular. Although there's plenty of action, the plot moves slowly at first. But once readers get to know Clara and Amos, neither the slow start nor the length of the book should deter them. The romance, while key, is decidedly not mushy, a boon for attracting male readers. --Debbie Carton

Publisher's Weekly Review

Alternating the perspective of Clara and Amos, ninth-graders coming of age, Tom McNeal (author of the adult novel, Goodnight, Nebraska) and wife, Laura McNeal, convincingly capture the dynamics of adolescent relationships but muddy the novel with a problematic subplot. Clara Wilson's biggest worry is her crooked nose--until her best friend ditches her, and her parents suddenly separate. Amos MacKenzie's father is dying, his mother is obsessed with religion and his buddy Bruce stalks an intangible girl. Clara and Amos both become targets of town thugs Charles and Eddie Tripp. Readers may question the validity of a few key scenes involving these shady characters: for instance, when Amos attempts to save some snow sculptures from the Tripps' wrath, the brothers beat him unconscious with a baseball bat and Amos is consequently elevated to hero status at school; Clara, an otherwise clear-thinking teen, voluntarily takes a ride with Eddie Tripp when he shows up at her house uninvited--even though she has seen him stealing and knows of his involvement with Amos's injury. Without much buildup to a motivation for such actions by the protagonists, scenes such as these undermine the teens' solid characterizations elsewhere. The book's strength lies in the interactions between Clara and Amos and their relationships with their respective families. Ages 12-up. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gr 6-10-In this fine first novel set in upstate New York, two ordinary teens navigate the complicated, sometimes scary world they inhabit. Clara Wilson, 14, has a crooked nose, a best friend who deserts her, and parents who argue all the time. When her mother accepts a teaching job in Spain, Clara feels abandoned and resentful. Fellow ninth-grader Amos MacKenzie has parents who embarrass him, and keep secrets from him. He enjoys a newfound popularity after being attacked by the town bad boys, Charles and Eddie Tripp, but is lost and confused when his father unexpectedly dies following exploratory surgery. His budding relationship with Clara is his only consolation. When the Tripp brothers vow revenge on Amos for reporting them to the police, he and Clara face intimidation, which draws them even closer together. In a dramatic climax, the Tripps break into her house and corner her in the attic. The McNeals' recognition of the angst of junior high with its fickle friendships, bullies, and first love make their novel one that mirrors real life. The characters' actions and reactions ring true as they try to cope with all of the changes that life has dealt them and still maintain a grasp on who they are. For most of the novel, the story is told from the alternating viewpoints of the two main characters, but in the climactic final chapters, their voices become blended. Readers will come away knowing that even though their paths have taken some unexpected twists and turns, these young people are on a straight and sure course.-Janet Hilbun, formerly at Sam Houston Middle School, Garland, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.