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!