Puck (A Twisted Lit Novel) by Amy Helmes & Kim Askew

Life isn’t always fair, and no one knows that better than fifteen-year-old Puck. When she’s unceremoniously booted from yet another foster home, this city kid lands at DreamRoads, a rehabilitation wilderness camp. Her fellow juvenile delinquents include a famous pop star with a diva attitude, a geeky, “fish out of water” math whiz, and a surly gang-banger with a chip on his shoulder. The program’s steely director aims to break Puck, but she knows that every adult has a breaking point, too. Determined to defy this realm of agonizing nature hikes and soul-sucking psychobabble — even if that means manipulating four lovestruck camp counsellors and the director’s dim-witted second-in-command — Puck ultimately gets much more than she bargains for in this “wondrous strange” outdoor odyssey inspired by Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”


Song For This Book: Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day
Why? I feel like this song is a good fit for how Puck feels early in the story, when she’s so sure that she’s beyond helping.


I received a copy of this book from the author through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was excited when I was asked to review this book, because I have a soft spot for Shakespeare inspired stories. There’s something really fun about taking plays and stories that the entire world is familiar with to some extent, and making them into something new and special. And Helmes and Askew do an amazing job with this book.

Puck follows the story of, well, Puck. She’s a fifteen year old girl who has been shuffled through the system, and seems to have given up hope that there’s anything that can be done with her. She’s plucked from her bed in the middle of the night by two strangers and driven for ages to DreamRoads, where troubled kids go to see the light out in the middle of nowhere. Sure that this isn’t going to do a thing for her, she resists, cheats, and collects information that may work to her benefit. But even our best laid plans don’t go as we hope, and maybe DreamRoads is exactly where Puck needs to be.

As far as a rewrite would go, this one is pretty loose. Inspired is definitely the word to use here. You’ll see some common characters, story lines, and elements that match up with what you know from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but the overall story is different enough. But that’s what’s good about this. The elements the authors have chosen to include work so well within the story and you’re excited to see them, but it’s not the same old story yet again.  This is how all adaptions, rewrites, or inspired stories should be done.

The Good Points about Puck:

I loved all of the characters in this book. They were all so fun and unique and interesting. And even more, I loved that there were no bad or good characters in this book. Sure, some were jerks, or strange, or something for parts of the story. But in the end, they proved themselves to be all just doing the best they could. It fit the story so beautifully.

Snout deserves a point of his own, because I honestly loved everything about his character and what goes down with him. Can we have a book about Snout, please?

The writing in this book is fantastic. Puck and the others all sounded like teenagers, which is something I don’t say about many books. Adults tend to write teens as though they speak and think like adults, but this isn’t the case here. Askew and Helmes have teen speak down, and it works so well in this book.

A book about teens with problems gives you the impression that you’re getting into something serious. And you are. But the authors have thrown in just enough humour and fun that you’ll laugh as much as your heart aches for the characters, and in just the right places. Balancing serious subject matters and comedy is no easy task, but Askew and Helmes did a wonderful job.

As a therapist myself (however, please note, not one that typically works with youth at risk, just has studied or sat in on sessions with them), I did like the relationship between Puck and Barb. I thought it was really well portrayed, and that both of their reactions were great. I loved the Barb was human, and that Puck seemed to get under her skin, which at times caused her to be a little unprofessional. Therapists and counsellors have feelings and opinions and difficulties too, and counter transference is a real thing. It was an interesting read from the therapist’s perspective, but I’ll leave it at that.

The Downsides about Puck:

The timeline of the story completely threw me. It was only when the characters brought it up in the end that I found out they’d been out in the wilderness for as long as they were. I had definitely thought they were on a much shorter timeline. Maybe I’d just missed it earlier, but it was a bit of a surprise when I hit that part.  It definitely helped the progress of the characters make more sense though.

This book is paced incredibly fast, which probably is part of my issue with my previous point. While it did make it easy to fly through this book, I think it would be been better if we’d gotten a bit more time with some of the scenes and maybe even a bit more of the story.

There is one aspect of Puck’s story, the reason that she ended up at DreamRoads if you’ve read it, that sat a little funny with me. It was brought up and discussed, but I felt like it should have been a bigger deal than it was. The book is short and there’s a lot to get through, but what Puck did is really serious. I wish that the adults in the book had made it a bigger deal so that she’d realize that.

All in all, this is a fun, quick read that will tug on your heart just enough, and make you smile in all the right places. The characters are wonderful, the story unfolds in a fun, engaging way, and leaves you wishing that you could just give all of the characters a great big hug. I had not heard of the Twisted Lit Novels before, but I am definitely going to have to hunt more of them down now, not to mention, get my hands on a copy of Puck for my own shelf.

2 thoughts on “Puck (A Twisted Lit Novel) by Amy Helmes & Kim Askew

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