The Twisted Window
has the same feel as the teenager-in-peril books I devoured as a melodrama-loving kid, back in the early-to-mid '90s. I don't remember reading anything by Duncan but the book felt familiar anyway.
In a nutshell: our heroine, Tracy, is approached by a boy named Brad, who asks for her help. Brad is trying to find his baby sister, whom he believes was snatched by his ex-stepfather, and he wants Tracy to be his sidekick. She agrees, and the book follows their mission to its conclusion.
It's a short read, and moves quickly, although there's a bit of unnecessary detouring here and there: the commercials that are on the teevee while Tracy's aunt and uncle are chatting, some out-of-place similes. Tracy is a likeable character for the most part, and I appreciated that she was aware of what was going on around her instead of being clueless. She had a few bratty moments but what teenager doesn't? Sometimes Brad behaves in a manner that would make Edward Cullen proud, so I found it hard to trust him, which kind of worked with the story.
I liked most of the adults -- with one or two exceptions, they're people dealt unexpected hands, doing the best they can. The Twisted Window
isn't chock-full of adult interactions, but when they appeared (mostly as exposition) I enjoyed them; I'm used to the adult POV being absent from these books.
The story itself has a handful of twisty turns, most of which are telegraphed far in advance. I don't know if a younger reader would see them coming quite as easily; I guess it would depend on her level of media saturation. To Duncan's credit, I still kept reading despite the predictability, wanting to see how everything would pan out. I enjoyed it despite my crystal ball.
While it still has the tone of those books I used to mainline, the e-book version I just finished (which was a NetGalley find) has been updated, most noticeably with mentions of cell phones, and I guess that makes sense for the younger generation, who would probably be like "Why wouldn't he just use his cell?" or whatever. However, it still has elements that make it FEEL like an older book -- the slang, a Garfield clock, a forest green scoopneck dress and French braid being "exotic" -- so I'm not sure it totally works. I think it might have been better to trust the reader to know that not everyone had cell phones in the late '80s. It did make for a fun game of find-the-new-bits, though!
Oh, and there's a little mini-bio of Duncan at the back of the book, complete with photographs of a baby Lois and her parents and their FABULOUS holiday cards. It was like a little treat at the end of an already satisfactory trip to Nostalgia Land.