Freakboy – Kristin Elizabeth Clark – 2013 – YA LGBT
Told from three viewpoints, seventeen-year-old Brendan, a wrestler, struggles to come to terms with his place on the transgender spectrum while Vanessa, the girl he loves, and Angel, a transgender acquaintance, try to help.
The story is told from three points of view – Brendan, Angel and Vanessa. It’s easy to tell the three voices apart, and although a few reviews have said Vanessa isn’t necessary, I like hearing the voice of someone affected by Brendan’s story. I didn’t really care about the main character, Brendan. There was too much repetition of how much he hated wrestling, and loved his girlfriend but also wanted to look like her, and loved his little sister but hated his step dad. It got boring reading the same problem over and over. My favourite character was Angel, and I’d actually have preferred a book about her story – at least she didn’t go round just feeling sorry for herself!
This is the first book I’ve ever read about a gender fluid character. Unfortunately I can’t say I understand that gender identity much more than before I read the book. I tried to do a little bit of research on gender fluidity while I was reading the book, but the stuff I found on the internet (both through Google and Youtube) was so discriminating and hurtful (even as a cis- person looking in) that I just stopped trying. I can’t believe that in this age of people being relatively open about gender identities – on the internet at least – I can’t find people talking about a positive story of being gender fluid. Although this doesn’t directly affect the novel, I think it would have been great if it had told more of a story of what it’s like to be gender fluid. On one page Brendan googles and sees the word transgender. He automatically starts labelling himself as transgender, even though it doesn’t feel like an identity that fits him. It’s not until near the end of the book that Angel brings up being gender fluid, so there really isn’t enough information or time spent on the identity in the novel.
There were a few quotes in the book I really liked. For example,
“I wake up to flat chest, morning wood, nauseous.” I think this just sums up the sickness that Brandon feels with his body some days.
My favourite quote from Angel was “Not my fault the world just isn’t ready to stop defining gender the way it always has.” I think it’d be great if everyone who faced discrimination was able to have the confidence Angel has, not just with gender but other minority groups.
Another favourite scene in the book was when Brandon tried to go to the LGBT young people’s session. He talks about how scared he is to go in and face that part of himself, and I definitely identified from the times as a teen when I would go to a similar group in my local area.
Another part in the group that really made me cringe was when Brendan’s friend walked in on him while he was wearing a bra. The way the verse was written at this part just helped to heighten that “oh-no” feeling as he gets closer to being ‘caught’.
I really enjoyed the free verse style of this book. Despite the book being over 400 pages, I read it in a couple of days (not normal for me!) The free verse was so easy to read, and I’d really like to read more novels in the style.
I didn’t enjoy the ending of the book particularly. There are about 10 pages where Brendan decides he wants to kill himself. It doesn’t even seem very legitimate, and as soon as he decides that’s what he wants to do, he changes his mind because he sees his sister. That’s not how mental health works, and it feels shoe-horned into the story to add bit more drama. The ending is so quick for all the build up through the book.
Another thing I didn’t really like was at the end of the book when Angel said she was glad Brendan didn’t tell his parents about his gender identity, because they then might not pay him through university. While I’m sure some trans- people go through this situation, if I was a gender fluid person reading this book, I don’t think that would give me any confidence about my future.
I gave the book 2 stars on Goodreads, although I’d probably give it 2.5 stars if I could. I did really enjoy the free verse style, but it probably wouldn’t be a book I’d recommend. Despite it being an original premise I don’t think it’s a particularly memorable book