Tilt by Alan Cumyn

Posted by on Apr 22, 2014 in Book Reviews, Ontario | 0 comments

tilt Summary: Sixteen year-old Stan has a complicated home life. His parents are divorced and his mom often goes out at night to see her boyfriend. His little sister, Lily, is precocious, often making up stories to get attention. Stan is the stable one in the family, doing his best to make things easier on his mother and taking care of Lily. As a teenage boy though, Stan has dreams of his own. He’s worked all summer long to make the Junior Varsity basketball team, and has fallen for Janine Igwash, a girl others at school call ’tilted’ because they think she is into girls. When Stan’s dad shows up with Feldon, his son from his new relationship and it turns out some of the stories Lily was telling were true after all, Stan’s life is thrown into disarray. On top of that he’s dealing with his first relationship with someone who might be bisexual and his basketball hopes don’t turn out quite as planned. Somehow Stan must find a way to pull his family together again and sort things out with Janine.

Number of Pages: 269

Age Range: 15-17

Review: Upon reading Alan Cumyn’s Acknowledgements, I discovered that he was inspired to write Tilt after hearing a lecture about desire. I was surprised when I read that comment, because I thought this book was more about lust than desire.

In Stan’s world, he is the adult. His father’s a liar and a deadbeat, his mother is a borderline alcoholic. It seems like Stan is the one with the most sense who really takes care of people in his house. But he’s still just a sixteen year-old kid. Cumyn does an excellent job of showing how Stan’s brain is baked in hormones, and although he does act like an adult more than the other adults in his life, he still leaps to conclusions and makes stupid decisions.

I was quite puzzled though by his relationship with Janine. I understand that he’s attracted to her and I think they could be great friends, but I ended up thinking she was actually gay and not bisexual. The part about the dance where Janine tells Stan that she only invited him to make her mother happy because she was dying made it seem that way. I really don’t know if she had sex with him because she is genuinely attracted to him or because she was trying to be someone her mother wanted her to be, finding comfort in closeness in the face of losing her.

I enjoyed the scene where Stan confronts his father and rescued Feldon, but over all I found it to be a scattered and vague read. There were many unanswered questions and unexplored topics, like the fact that Ron, Stan’s father, is a pathological liar, but Lily, Stan’s sister, is praised at school for being highly imaginative. I wondered if the one influenced the other.

This is my second time reading Tilt, and unfortunately I still don’t think I am any closer to understanding it.

Memorable Quotes:

“The perfect jump shot begins in the soles of the feet. It moves like a wave through the calves and the thighs up to the hips and along the spine to the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand and out the fingertips, a natural stroke as at ease in the universe as an ocean wave that curls and falls. Easier than breathing. Truer than thought.” from Tilt by Alan Cumyn, page 10

Tilt by Alan Cumyn is published by Groundwood Books (2011).

(Buy this book: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

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