Clark, K. (2013). Freakboy. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Plot Summary: Freakboy tells the story of Brendan who struggles to find their gender identity, his girlfriend Vanessa, and his trans* friend Angel who helps Brendan discover the person they are meant to be. Throughout the book Brendan feels like a freak and cannot figure out if they are male or female. Sometimes it is easy to be a guy while other days this feels like the worst thing ever. Brendan then has to struggle with getting outed in school and dealing with his classmates harassment and judgement. Vanessa loves Brendan to the degree that everything else in her life suffers from a lack of attention. She worries when Brendan is distant but he always comes back to her. When one of his teammates catches him cross dressing she does not understand. Angel works at a center for LGBTQ youth and recognizes Brendan’s struggle and the two become friends she offers him a lot of support and information about LBGTQ terms and issues.
Critical Evaluation: This book has a unique format as the story is told from three points of view and is entirely done in poetry. While the story primarily focuses on Brendan seeing the story from not only his point of view but also Vanessa and Angel’s points of view allows readers to see Brendan from multiple perspectives. This allows readers to chart Brendan’s character development in a unique way as the three different characters pick up on different changes in his attitude and behavior. Brendan’s experience also acts as a catalyst for Vanessa and Angel to examine events in their own lives. So readers see their character development in regards to Brendan. For Vanessa this character development happens as she disengages herself from being half of a couple and regains her own identity and friends again. For Angel interacting with Brendan is a reminder of how far she has come and encourages her to open up her life to a new boyfriend. The setting of the book is also very interesting many important scenes in the story happen in one of three places wrestling practice or matches, Brendan’s room, and the LGBTQ center. The wrestling practice and matches highlight Brendan’s struggle with masculinity as well as his relationship with Vanessa who is also on the team. Brendan’s room is his private space where he is most contemplative, it is also a dangerous place where he almost commits suicide and where he is caught cross dressing. The LGBTQ center is where Brendan and Angel’s story overlaps for Brendan it is a source of confusion while for Angel it is a safe and secure place. All of these places are places that can represent opposite things depending on which character is there and how they feel at the time much like how Brendan feels about their body.
Reader’s Annotation: Some days Brendan is perfectly happy being a boy, other days it is the worst thing ever, he is not sure who is and fear he will always be trapped somewhere in between as a freakboy.
Author Information: This is Kristen Elizabeth Clark’s first novel. It was inspired by her own daughter’s journey though she is not trying to tell her daughter’s story or a definitive story of trans* youth. She lives in Northern California and has worked as a youth advocate in the juvenile justice system.
Genre: Realistic Fiction/ Poetry
Curriculum Ties: This book is an interesting example of a verse novel and could be used in a poetry lesson.
Booktalk Ideas: 1) Does having the story told in verse rather than a more traditional narrative change the story and how so?
2) Do you think books like this become more or less important as trans* people like Caitlyn Jenner gain more attention in current media?
Reading Level & Interest Level: The reading level of this book is listed as age 12-17 which seems appropriate. I think that older readers will be more interested in the book because of the age of the main characters but it may still appeal to younger teens who are interested in trans* characters.
Challenge Issues: The book does have some mentions of sex and includes a poem about sex. This is important to the story line as it highlights some of Brendan’s confusion about his identity. There may also be challenge issues because this book features trans* individuals. However it is important to include LGBTQ books in a collection to increase diversity and provide support for teens who may be struggling with their own sexuality or identity. This book has received good reviews and is a unique addition to a collection.
Why is it included?: I read this book for this class and really enjoyed it. We also got to meet with the author which was an amazing experience. She gave a great presentation and I really enjoyed the answers she gave to our class’s questions. This is one of my favorite books I have read this term so I had to include it.