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Book Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

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Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clarke

Source: Goodreads

Plot Summary (Taken from Amazon):  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.

My Review: One of the best aspects of this book is the characters. Brendan’s struggle to understand his sexual identity is realistic and raw. Also, the fact that he is also a great big brother to his little sister, put down by his wrestling coach, and doesn’t get along with his stepfather makes him even more sympathetic.

Meanwhile, Angel’s character shows what its like for transgender people who love and accept themselves, but still struggle with their past and everyday prejudice.  Like Brendan, her point of view is raw and she has qualities that make her sympathetic. She is caring and motherly to her loved ones.

Finally, Vanessa is a character that urges the reader to discuss gender norms and how they relate to gender identity. Even though she is straight, she is still called a “dyke” because she is the only girl on the wrestling team. Anyone who doesn’t fit the standard for what it means to be male or female can relate to her.

Besides the characters, the author does a great job writing three points-of-view in verse. She uses different poetry styles and creates powerful metaphors in order to convey thoughts and emotions. In addition, the way certain words and poems are structured is very creative.

The only criticism I have of the book is its ending, particularly with Brendan’s point-of-view. The end of Brendan’s story felt too ambiguous. While it is understandable that his story doesn’t have an easy outcome, the author could have shown that it is possible for Brendan to have a good future.

Overall, this book was a poignant glimpse into the lives of gender queer and transgender people and how gender norms affect everyone. I recommend it to everyone who doesn’t fit gender norms. I also recommend it to anyone who works with transgender and gender queer youth and anyone who has enjoyed the work of YA author Ellen Hopkins.

Written by Serena Zola

September 15, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Source: Rainbow Rowell’s website

Plot Summary: Cath Avery is a huge Simon Snow fan. She writes lots of Simon Snow fan-fiction and has the Simon Snow book series and lots of Simon Snow memorabilia. She’s also a twin and a fresh-out-of-the-box college freshman. Suddenly, things are changing.

Cath’s twin sister Wren is also a huge Simon Snow fan, but is pulling away from Cathy and from the Simon Snow fandom. Cathy now has to deal with an irritable roommate with a nice boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who doesn’t understand fan fiction, a  new writing partner, and a mentally vulnerable Dad who’s never been alone.  Cath must learn to come out of her shell and live her life without sacrificing what is important to her.

My Review: One of the best thing about this book are the characters. The main characters and secondary characters each have a personality that brings something different to the story. They also develop by themselves and with each other gradually.

In addition,  the author did a good job of showing how almost anyone can be geeky, not just one type of person. Furthermore, the tougher topics sprinkled in the book (mental illness, learning disabilities, drinking dangers, and divorce) are handled in a realistic and non-preachy manner with the characters they are associated with.

Besides the characters, the author’s writing style is great. Some lines of dialogue are hilarious. A favorite is, “But it’s like John Lennon writing with… Taylor Swift instead of Paul McCartney.” says Nick. “Get over yourself,” Cath said. “You’re not half as pretty as Taylor Swift.”

Other lines are thoughtful and touching. There are several lines about writing fiction that may spark some ideas or thoughts in readers who are also writers. Also, the author has a way of describing Cath’s feelings in a way that makes you feel them on a deeper level. An example of this are the lines, “She just needed to settle her nerves. To take the anxiety she felt like black static behind her eyes and an extra heart in her stomach where it belonged- where she could at least tie it into a nice knot and work around it.”

In addition, the lines that appear when Cath finds the boyfriend she loves are adorkable. Some favorite line are, “In the right light, you are such a nerd.” and “You’re magic.”

Furthermore, the author’s treatment of fan-fiction was respectful and well-rounded. Cath writes slash (gay coupling) fan fiction. Bits of Simon Snow fan fiction that are written by Wren and Cath on a fictional fan fiction site under clever pen names are at the end of each chapter.

Also, the author sums up the meaning of fan fiction with one sentence, “The whole point of fan fiction is that you get to play inside somebody else’s universe. Rewrite the rules. Or bend them.” Lastly, she shows what it is like to read fan fiction through more than one character. A favorite is a conversation between Cath and a random Simon Snow fan who is a fan of Cathy’s fan fiction.

The only flaw I had with the book was the pacing. At times, the book could be too slow. Even though this was good for the character development, there were times the author should have cut some months out.

Overall, this book was fantastic (no pun intended). I recommend it to anyone who reads or writes fan fiction, anyone who has a geeky hobby, and anyone looking for an adorkable story.

Post Review Authoress Notes: I am so happy I finally got this book; I’ve been wanting to read it all freaking year! I used to write fan fiction in high school and while I don’t write it anymore, I still read it. I’m also sad that the book is over and find it cool that I finished it on the last day of 2013.

Furthermore, I’m also happy The Outsiders (my favorite teen fiction book ever) was mentioned in the book… although I don’t like the way the author spoiled it a little.

I wish I could tell a certain character from Fangirl that yes, there is Outsiders fan fiction. I personally think the amount of Outsiders fan fiction increases every year. I’m not sure because I don’t read that particular fan fiction anymore, but the fact that it has thousands of fan fics is great because the book is a timeless classic.

Lastly, I loved the way the author parodied the Harry Potter fandom, especially at the very end of the book. It reminded me how I felt when I got the last Harry Potter book and turned the final page.

Written by Serena Zola

December 31, 2013 at 1:42 PM

Book Review: Rogue by Lyn Miller- Lachmann

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Rogue by Lyn Milller-LachmannPlot Summary (Taken from Goodreads): Kiara has Asperger’s syndrome, and it’s hard for her to make friends. So whenever her world doesn’t make sense—which is often—she relies on Mr. Internet for answers. But there are some questions he can’t answer, like why she always gets into trouble, and how do kids with Asperger’s syndrome make friends? Kiara has a difficult time with other kids. They taunt her and she fights back. Now she’s been kicked out of school. She wishes she could be like her hero Rogue—a misunderstood X-Men mutant who used to hurt anyone she touched until she learned how to control her special power.

When Chad moves in across the street, Kiara hopes that, for once, she’ll be able to make friendship stick. When she learns his secret, she’s so determined to keep Chad as a friend that she agrees not to tell. But being a true friend is more complicated than Mr. Internet could ever explain, and it might be just the thing that leads Kiara to find her own special power.

My Review:

One of the best things about this book are its characters. Kiara is a protagonist worth caring about because she is more than just a person with a disability. Chad, Kiara’s potential friend, is like an onion. You gradually learn to sympathize with him as you learn more about him.  When it comes to the supporting characters, they were well-done because they gave a spark to Kiara’s personality and life. It was creative how the author gave some of the characters traits that were similar to some of the X-Men.

Another thing that was interesting was the treatment of Asperger’s syndrome, broken families, drugs and alcohol, and friendship. The author did a good job of informing outsiders about Asperger’s syndrome. Although the author has it herself, she portrayed it fairly by showing how it affects the person who has it and people around the person who has it.

In addition, Lachmann weaved in other issues into the story well. It realistically shows how complicated life can be for young people. The only downside was that linking a couple of these issues to one of the characters created a too ambiguous ending for that character.

All in all, this was a great book. Anyone who works with young people with disabilities should read this. Due to the drug and alcohol content, I also recommend that only upper-level middle school students and above read this book.

Related Book Review:

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Written by Serena Zola

September 13, 2013 at 11:55 AM

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