Sunday, April 21, 2013

Freaks Like Us

Author: Susan Vaught
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Released: September 4, 2012
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: No
Source: Library
When Jason Milwaukee's best friend Sunshine vanishes, Jason knows that something is terribly wrong, but solving her disappearance will require pushing through all the voices in his head and then getting the world to listen to him. His schizophrenia is stopping him from remembering the events leading up to her disappearance, and often he discounts his own memories, and his own impressions. But his deep knowledge that he would never hurt his friend, plus the faith of his parents and a few others in the town bring him to the point of solving the mystery. In the end, it's Sunshine's own love for Jason (Freak) that persuades him of his own strength and goodness.
Let me start with saying that Susan Vaught is a psychologist - and after reading this book, I'd recommend her to anyone I know! She obviously gets people with these illnesses - the descriptions of Sunshine's selective mutism and Drip's ADHD just sound so right, like she gets to the heart of how they think. And that is, of course, overshadowed by the way Freak is written. 

Even though the entire story happens over one 24-hour period, except for the epilogue, I felt like I really got to know how Freak lives on a daily basis. Because of the style of the novel, with glimpses into Freak's mind-voices and flashbacks, which Freak tries so desperately both to remember and to forget, there are so many layers. So many issues were touched on, the way he has to deal with the voices and sift through what's real and what isn't, his own self-image, how others perceive him and behave towards him, and most touchingly, I felt, was the detail about his name. It shows so much about how he and the other "alphabets" view themselves. Agent Mercer showcases that really nicely.

And I really had tears in my eyes during Freak's (almost) last conversation with Agent Mercer. Much more than a story about a missing girl, this is the story of people with disabilities and their place in the world, and seeing Agent Mercer's developing interactions with Freak and Drip - I cried. Literally, no exaggeration. I cried.

And I cried again, even more, at the epilogue. 

I'm going to leave it at that. This is a brilliant book.

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