Monday, September 23, 2013

ARC Book Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Title: Freakboy
Author: Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Publisher: Macmillin
Release Date: October 22, 2013
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions: 
I like the strange breaking of the silouette on this cover but it doesn't give much information about the subject matter.  I would love to see something with a little more powerful imagery to represent the powerful story.

The Gist:
Freakboy is written in verse and tells the story of a seemingly all American teen boy who is struggling with gender issues.  Through the narratives of Brendan, his girlfriend, Vanessa and his friend, Angel we get a special insight into the struggles of transgender teens and those people that love them through it all.


I will admit, this is my first time reading a book in verse.  It had seemed a little gimmicky to me in the past and, even in Freakboy, the writing style takes some getting used to.  Some of my issues may have come from the fact that the advance ebook that I received was either a) pretty poorly formatted or b) just didn't get along with my Sony Reader.  Once I had pushed through 20 or 30 pages, however, I did start to understand the appeal of this type of writing and even highlighted a few passages that made me stop and think.  It is clear that Clark chose each word carefully and really got a feel for how they would fit together.  I did dislike some particular elements, like the word art, which didn't quite format on my reader, but they can easily be overlooked.

I think the author made a fantastic choice in following three characters and choosing those characters to represent several individuals who are affected by transgender issues.  We have Brendan, the questioning teen, Vanessa, the devoted girlfriend and Angel, the teen support worker who has been there.  I was particularly fond of Angel.  She ha been through the absolute worst that life could possibly throw at her and had emerged on the other side with an intact sense of self and a strong support group.  I was very happy to see this perspective and I hope that her message of "paying it forward" will be inspiring to young readers.  I also really liked the relationship between Brendan and Vanessa.  Vanessa was so devoted to him, in a way that was clearly unhealthy, and which she realized by the end, and he was just so completely and utterly lost.  There were several moments during Vanessa's passages where I wanted to shake her and several during Brendan's where I was left thinking "Yes! I am so glad that the author put this struggle in the book!"  There were also characters that I absolutely loathed, but that were all too realistic in a world where cruelty is at least, tolerated, or at worst, celebrated.  Characters like the wrestling coach remind us why the kind people in this world must be extra kind because the mean people in this world are particularly heinous.

Clark clearly knows her subject matter and is able to write about teenagers in a way that is realistic and respectful.  I love that in Freakboy there is no tidy ending.  There is hope, but there is no perfect solution.  It is clear that these characters, like real teens with these issues, will continue to struggle and to grow, but that they have a chance at a happy life, with people who love them.

I had my doubts about a book written in verse, but Freakboy won me over.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing, Sex between teenagers, Some vulgar talk of sexual activities
Violence: Beatings,
Inappropriate Language: Tits, Bitch, Fag, Ass, Pussy, Piss, Dyke, Dick,
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking
Other Issues: Prostitution

Favorite Lines:

"Pinning girl thoughts to the mat and gaining control of my brain."

"Do I want to do her, or do I want to be her."

"I wanted to beg her for more words but was scared they'd hurt."


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