Thursday, May 1, 2014

Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Gender identity is the focus of Freakboy, Kristin Elizabeth Clark's debut YA novel. It's a fat book told in verse format, in a style much like that of Ellen Hopkins. Powerful words are carefully placed on the page to accentuate emotional states like fear and disconnection. Sometimes a concrete image is formed, as in the case where a poem in the shape of a T contains an important conversation about feeling transgender. There are three voices in Freakboy, each in their own font and headed with their names.

Brendan is in his final year of high school. He's on the wrestling team, struggles with depression, and dreams at night of being a princess.

Vanessa, the only girl on the school's wrestling team, gets called a dyke. She is Brendan's girlfriend and their mutual attraction feels real.

My favourite character is Angel, a transwoman who works at a drop-in centre for queer youth. Because of her interactions with Brendan, she finds herself struggling with ethical dilemmas that give additional complexity to this story.

This is from Angel:
Some girls
think pumping
is trashy-
judge those who go
to pumping parties,
strip down in apartments
or hotel rooms,
let someone with
no medical connection
inject that silicone
right into their
chests, hips, lips.
My opinion? 
It's judging that's trashy.
"Everyone feels like a freak until they make up their mind they're not." Angel's words to Brendan could equally apply to so many other teenagers.

Freakboy is a thoughtful exploration of gender fluidity.

Readalikes: Tricks and other verse novels by Ellen Hopkins

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