Review: Freakboy

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: FreakboyFreakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on October 22, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book Depository

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.

I read Freakboy as I traversed the United States. The row in front of me on the airplane, there was a baby, so I put my headphones in and blasted music into my ears. This actually really helped me focus in on the book, and remove the rest of the world. Usually, when I read, I’m distracted: by my cat, by the internet, by little sounds outside. The whole time I was reading Freakboy on the flight, I was basically trying not to be that weird girl crying on the airplane. Kristin Elizabeth Clark’s Freakboy is one of those rare verse novels that works for me, and it made me feel so many feels as well.

In general, I really struggle with verse novels, because I expect them to follow certain rules, and generally they don’t. Freakboy actually isn’t the sort of verse I typically enjoy, but, reading it while listening to music, I was able to let go of my conceptions and just go with the book’s flow. Clark has three different first person perspectives all in verse, which I really didn’t think would work, but Clark pulls it off deftly. Brendan, Angel and Vanessa all have distinct voices and styles, even if they’re written similarly. Angel’s voice, especially stood out to me.

Clark experiments a lot with poetic form, making use of the space on the page and different poetic formats throughout. I especially loved the ones where she used a different form, like when Vanessa and Brendan’s poems merged into one. I also loved the way the formatting of the poems would symbolize the emotional distance between the characters at particular points. And, of course, I’m mightily cheered that I can like verse novels.

The plot of Freakboy is heartbreaking and needed in YA. The main character is Brendan, a wrestler, who is often called a fag, despite the fact that he has a girlfriend, Vanessa. He has never thought much of it, but events force him into introspection. He begins to wonder if he’s meant to be a girl, but he’s torn between his love of Vanessa and what that means for his sexuality. His search into his identity and what it means to be transgender or genderqueer is painful, touching, and enlightening. Clark manages to unpack a lot of the issues involved in a way that is educational without being preachy or lecturing.

My favorite character by far was Angel, who has this really powerful voice. Pretty much every quote I noted down was her. She’s transgender, passes well, but is always forthright about who she is. I love her strength and how she’s overcome so much adversity, and now wants to help teens struggling with the same issues she went through. She’s sassy and a bit rough and tumble. I loved her despite the fact that her grammar isn’t always perfect. Also, I feel like she’s a RENT reference, which can only be made of win. AND she gets a hot boy, which makes my heart happy and keeps the book from being unrelentingly depressing.

Vanessa’s perspective was interesting from the point of view of a partner dealing with someone going through this period of questioning, but I wasn’t quite as engaged with her as the other two. The way that she pushed her friends away to be with Brendan really irritated me. Her plot lines really felt unresolved, which is frustrating, and the one thing that I didn’t like about Freakboy.

This is not my best review ever, because I’m on vacation and exhausted from traveling, but I loved Freakboy. I love that it exists and think it’s beautifully done and emotionally resonant on top of that.

Favorite Quote:

“Everyone feels like a freak
until they make up their mind
they’re not.”

10 responses to “Review: Freakboy”

  1. Yep, this sounds like one I need to read! I haven’t really ever read a novel in verse, so I’m curious to find out if it works for me or not.
    Kat (AussieZombie) recently posted…Wonderfully Wicked Readathon II – Goals and UpdatesMy Profile

  2. Meg says:

    I really really want to read this. You and Kat Kennedy have both given it glowing recommendations which means it must be amazing.

  3. Jenni says:

    You definitely connected with this one a lot more than I did, I was sad to not have any feels through it once I was finished. But we both enjoyed it enough and it was verse so GO US! I agree that Angel’s voice was the one I liked the best as well. The shape poems were neat too, I still don’t get that one that was two poems in one though..
    Jenni recently posted…The Vow ReviewMy Profile

  4. Wow, I am SO surprised by this review. You never like verse novels, and also the multiple POV shifts seem like they would put you off. Those are the two reasons I didn’t request this one. I was really excited about the themes, but the writing scared me. I wish now that I had gotten it. Now I’m really excited for it, even though I had heard negative things from other people.

    Also, yay RENT references! And I love that Angel ends up with a happy relationship.
    Bekka @ Pretty Deadly Reviews recently posted…Stacking the Shelves and the Sunday PostMy Profile

  5. Lyn Kaye says:

    I have wanted another trans-fiction read after I was disappointed in Luna, and this one sounds like a real winner!
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Was Forced to ReadMy Profile

  6. I really want to read this one now. Though I am really not fond of books written in verse. So I’m a little uneasy about reading it.
    Alexia @ Adventures in Reading recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #14My Profile

  7. Ooh, this sounds really good–I need to check it out soon. Haven’t been reading as many verse novels lately.
    Stephanie Parent recently posted…Blog Tour: Homecoming by Cecilia RobertMy Profile

  8. Molli says:

    YES, I also definitely felt like Angel was a nod to RENT’s Angel, which made me cry. I listened to some of the Rent soundtrack while I read this, actually. It resonated with me, and I loved loved the style and the differences. I was so nervous about this one but ended up really, really liking it. So so happy you did too, girl. YAY that you can like a verse book!
    Molli recently posted…Molli & Marie’s (Almost) Infinite Playlist!My Profile

  9. Wow, this sounds so good! I love reading LGBT fiction and I haven’t read a book on this particular topic before. I’ve seen the name going around quite a bit, but didn’t really know what it’s about. So, after reading your review, I’m definitely going to go add this to my TBR pile!
    Miranda @ Tempest Books recently posted…Completed & Not-So-Completed Book SeriesMy Profile

  10. Angie F. says:

    I’m so glad that you found a verse novel that worked for you! I’ve really grown to love them this past year, and Freakboy sounds like one I need to get my hands on!
    Angie F. recently posted…Review: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey JayMy Profile

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