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Tangled Web

by Shelley Hrdlitschka

Shelley Hrdlitschka’s second book about 15-year-old Alex and Tanner is indeed a busy web of story strands. The heroes, twin boys separated at birth, were reunited under dangerous circumstances in Disconnected (1998). In Tangled Web, Tanner leaves Edmonton to visit his twin in Vancouver. The boys are awaiting the trial of Hap, a murderous criminal overlord they foiled in the first book. Hap gets out on bail, witnesses disappear, the twins are endangered, and – whoosh – we’re off.

Aside from this action/adventure story with its attendant threats and concoctions of daring plans, there are plenty of other story strands. How will the brothers fare as they get to know each other? Why is Alex’s estranged father stalking him? Why does Alex resist Tanner’s obsession with tracking down their birth mother? Exploring these family issues would be interesting enough. Yet, there’s more. The brothers share telepathic and telekinetic powers and are also the centrepiece of an important twins study at the university. Hrdlitschka’s prose is confident as she successfully untangles everything but there are simply too many strands to pursue in anything but the most facile manner.

A more formidable problem is that the heroes, although eminently likable, do not feel like believable 15-year old males. With no sense of testosterone, no misfiring hormones, no goofy thoughts about power, revenge or girls, the boys are strangely antiseptic. Even their interactions with Caitlin and Zoe read more like relationships with childhood chums than with girlfriends. The book’s entertaining smorgasbord of stories would capture the attention of 11- or 12-year-olds but its overall young feel renders it unlikely to be a hit with older readers.