Monday, October 21, 2013

Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

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Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: October 22nd 2013
by Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR)

From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

In Freakboy's razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.
-A copy was provided by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for review-

As my first verse novel, Freakboy really surprised me. Not being a fan of poetry I was expecting verse novels to give me the worst kind of reading experience, but it was actually really moving and easier to get into the flow of it than I would have thought. The subject matter was also original and gave me a new insight in the subject of LGBT. I’ve read plenty of books about gay teens with confused sexualities and such, but this was my first time into the mind of a confused transsexual.

Freakboy is told through the eyes of 3 teenagers, Brendan being our protagonist. Brendan is confused about his gender, nothing being black and white – as expected with this type of story. Even after he learns about transsexuals, he doesn’t feel like he fits in anywhere. It was saddening to watch him go through such internal battles. We see him question his self worth and battle depression. It’s an emotional read and the verse writing style made this even more poignant. It really brought out the angles of his thoughts as well as the depth of his depression. I don’t think this story would have been quite as powerful had it been written in a regular style. A side note on the format. Aside from it being in verse, there are also pages that were designed to look like certain things – for instance a Christmas tree on one page, a question mark on another – I found it clever and it also made the reading experience even more unique. There were some formatting tactics that added more to the story than others, though. A couple instances, I felt, showed more effort into making the formatting fit rather than for those passages to make sense. I chose to read those parts as a type of internal rambling.

The other narrators are Vanessa and Angel: Brendan’s girlfriend, and a girl he meets who happens to work at an LGBT teen centre. Vanessa was my least favorite. I didn’t like her as much as I wanted to nor did I ever connect with her. She’s the tomboy girlfriend who doesn’t really offer much to the story aside from showing Brandon he actually enjoys having sex with a girl – which could have been achieved through Brendan’s POV. As for Angel, I found her especially compelling. She’s a transsexual who is completely comfortable in her skin. She chose to become who she wanted to be despite the hardship she had to go through to get it. I found her kind of inspiring, actually. The multiple perspective does allow us to see that everyone has internal struggles no matter where they fit in society.

A very character oriented read, Freakboy is a beautiful story about learning to love yourself. It’s about allowing yourself to be happy with who you are. This is one of those stories that needed to be told!

4 Stars
4 Hot Espressos

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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20 Responses to “Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark”

  1. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    I’ve only read on verse novel which was The Weight of Water and absolutely loved the style so I’ll be sure to pick this one up. It’s also LGBT–I don’t read enough of those types of novels.

    Fantastic review, Giselle! <33

  2. Hannah @ The Irish Banana Review

    Yeah, I had a hard time getting into this one because of the prose. I think I would’ve rather had an in-depth look into his head that a novel setting would’ve allowed. I have to give the author major props for tackling this content and giving a voice to the “freaks” of the world and letting them know they aren’t alone.

    Awesome review!

  3. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I’ve been hearing a lot about this book lately. I’ll admit that I’m not a fan of verse books either, but this sounds like it tackles a powerful subject. I can’t think of any YA book that deals with transsexuals, so I definitely need to check it out. It seems like apart from Vanessa, the characters were well-developed and the author really captured the emotions of the main character. Hmm… I’m curious about the formatting.
    Thanks for the lovely review, Giselle. I’ll be checking this one out when it becomes available at the library.

  4. Vivian

    Hmmm, I haven’t read any verse books either, but I do love a character-driven book. This has me intrigued. I def haven’t read anything about LGBT issues. I should rectify that! Great review!

  5. Candace

    I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of this! I love verse novels and I seek out LGBT books. This is definitely going on my TBR! I’m glad you enjoyed your first verse novel. I highly recommend Lisa Schroeder, her books are AMAZING!

  6. Megan @ Adrift on Vulcan

    Hey, I didn’t know this was a novel-in-verse, and that actually kind of puts me off, even though I’ve never actually read a novel-in-verse. >.< So it's a surprise that this worked so well for you — I've never been a fan of poetry either. It's SO cool that the publisher put some work into the formatting, though! I think it would help to keep me more focused on the book, because I have a tendency to drift away when I'm reading poetry… not that that happens often.

    FREAKBOY stands out because it touches on topics I've never before seen in YA, and I'm glad to hear that the author did a marvelous job with conveying Brendan's insecurities and his journey to self-discovery and loving who you really are. "This is one of those stories that needed to be told!” — We definitely need more books like this!

    Vanessa sounds pretty useless in my opinion, but at least the other two made up for her, right? Anyway, brilliant review, Giselle! I wasn’t originally planning to read this, because it didn’t really sound like my kind of book, but I’m definitely more interested in it now. 🙂

  7. Aylee

    Wow, I am both surprised and excited that you felt this verse novel read smoothly. I’m not exactly a poem person either and so I am always intimidated by novels in verse. I’d prefer not to have to concentrate on the writing so much, so I’m pleased that the writing in this one flowed so nicely! And formatting the writing into different shapes is a cool idea. Alright, this sounds excellent – now I can’t decide which verse novel to try first, this one or one of Ellen Hopkins books (which I have been meaning to try for a long time). But this one has the advantage of a transgender storyline, which I’ve yet to try! Thanks for sharing, Giselle – really great review!

  8. Molli

    I didn’t like Vanessa much either. I think this book would have been 5 stars for me if her POV were left out, and it was just Brendan and Angel. With Vanessa’s POV, the end felt sorta resolution-less to me in some ways. But I did LOVE the verse style, and I was worried I wouldn’t.

    Really glad you liked this one too, girl!

  9. Christina (A Reader of Fictions)

    Freakboy was my third attempt at verse, and the second really successful one. I loved the subject matter too, but I’m really with you on Vanessa. I mean, I liked knowing that he enjoyed sex with her, because it shows how complex gender identity can be, but her perspective wasn’t really needed for that. Her POV was interesting, but I don’t know how much it really added to the book, and I didn’t identify with her. I LOVED Angel, though. Such a sassbox.

  10. Amy @ Book Loving Mom

    I just read this a few days ago and really enjoyed it. I was also surprised at how easily it flowed and how I got into it. I have listened to books written in verse, but have never read one myself so I wasn’t sure how it would go over. I loved getting to know the characters, and I really liked how different the subject matter was from what I have read before. Great review love!!