Brendan Chase remembers the last time his family was happy; it was a year after his little sister, Courtney, was born, a month before his parents split up. Ever since, he’s had to deal with his stepfather, his own father moving far away, his tyrannical wrestling coach and bullying teammates. His coach calls him “Brenda” and the co-captains tell him he acts like a girl. Typical boy insults, right? Maybe, but they are hitting too close to home. Lately, Brendan has been feeling strange in his own skin, like being a boy doesn’t always feel right. Which is crazy, because he has a beautiful girlfriend who he loves. He’s attracted to her, so he can’t be gay.
Vanessa is Brendan’s girlfriend. The only girl on the wrestling team, she has had to endure a lot of teasing and outright ugliness from teammates and opponents. Vanessa is just not your typical girl, and she and Brendan are in love, the kind where they can talk about anything and everything for hours. They are so compatible, and everything was made perfect when they started having sex. Then things start to change. Brendan can be moody, but not like this. It’s like he doesn’t even love her anymore. He won’t return her texts, he pretends to be sick – are they breaking up?
She’s always known. Ever since she was small, Angel Hanstead knew that she was in the wrong body. Her mother loved her no matter what, and her little brother thought she hung the moon. But when her mom dies unexpectedly, her father refuses to allow her to dress like the girl she is. When she refuses to stop, he beats her and kicks her out of the house. The worse part is that she can’t see her brother. It breaks her heart. Living on the streets is hard, and after some horrible detours, she finds a foster mom and Willows Teen LGBTQ Center, where she is encouraged to be herself.
Told in verse from three different points of view, Freakboy is the story of figuring out who you are and how you fit in when you don’t feel like the standard-issue male. The voices, as well as the format, make the story even more authentic, because they sound more like thoughts – thoughts that can’t always be said aloud or without repercussions. Angel’s story is harrowing, but so hopeful; and while Brendan is still figuring out who he is, we hope that between his therapist and his friends, he gets all of the support he needs.
There are no easy answers (or questions!) when grappling with sexuality, as this story deftly shows. It’s ultimately a tale of hope in others and faith in yourself, both of which a kid needs to figure things out. Though it sounds cliché, these kids are not alone. And, in truth, it does get better.
Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark was published October 22, 2013 by Farrar Strauss Giroux Books for Young Readers. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review. Big thanks to the Publisher, the Author and NetGalley.
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction LGBTQ+ Diversity
Ages: 13 and up
COYER Scavenger Hunt #24: Read a book that fits in the LGBT genre. (2 points)