aka YA Literature

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Freak Show

Several people on the YALSA book list-serv this week raved about Freak Show by James St. James, so since we had it at the library, I checked it out and read it. Let me tell you, it completely lived up to the "hype."

Freak Show is about a high school senior named Billy Bloom who starts his senior year at a new private prep school in Florida. On his first day of school, Billy decides to make a good impression by wearing a FABULOUS "retro-new wave/Vivienne Westwood/pirate look" with a ruffled lace shirt unbuttoned, tight blue pants, a thrift store military jacket, a crimson sash, and rags tied in his hair. "Don't worry. It's totally masculine. Swarthy, even. Nobody will suspect a thing [about him being gay]." On his way to school, he begins to anticipate all the wonderful things he'll be able to do there, like make new friends, join the Gay-Straight Alliance, write a trendspotting column for the newspaper, redecorate the school, start a Jackie O club, and set up a What Not to Wear booth in the lunchroom. Unfortunately, the very homogenous and WASP-y student body doesn't take too well to Billy's flamboyancy and he is immediately outcast, teased, and even beaten. Eventually, he makes a few friends and decides to run against Lynnette Franz for Homecoming Queen.

James St. James does an incredible job at creating Billy's "voice," and I just love Billy's plays-on-words. Just like everyone on the YALSA list said, the book is hilarious and I laughed out loud many, many times in reading it. But it's also meaningful, and Billy is vulnerable. It's not just silliness and laughs because Billy really does struggle with serious, big issues. Even though Billy relates his "freakishness" to what all teens experience, I think he has to confront issues even larger than the average teen. I mean, most people don't get beat into a coma for their issues, right?

The actually-gay-star-quarterback was a bit obvious, but I can live with it because of the homecoming queen story (don't want to give any more away!). I also overlook it because the book's cover is fantastic. I can't think of the last cover I've liked as much as this one. And I liked all the curly Qs in the chapters too.

You MUST read this book.

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