Gift Guide

Freakboy [NOOK Book]


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 ...

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 09/16/2013
Debut novelist Clark uses free verse to write a gripping story about a complex topic: the challenges of growing up transgender or genderqueer. Brendan struggles with his occasional desires to be a girl; in her own series of poems, Brendan’s devoted girlfriend, Vanessa, worries about why he is suddenly avoiding her. Meanwhile, transgendered Angel—whom Brendan meets near the teen center where Angel works—reveals her own painful journey; her intense story includes physical abuse and a hospital stay after being beaten up while working as a prostitute. Clark doesn’t stray far from central theme (the back matter includes resources and further reading) as she empathically explores what it can be like to be a transgendered teen (for example, not every transitioning character considers sex-reassignment surgery to be important). The author emphasizes that there are no simple answers for her characters, especially Brendan, who wonders if the transgendered label even fits. At the same time, through Angel, she gives her story a current of hope: “Everyone feels like a freak/ until they make up their mind/ they’re not.” Ages 12–up. Agent: Tracey Adams, Adams Literary. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"...a gripping story about a complex topic..."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

*"This gutsy, tripartite poem explores a wider variety of identities—cis-, trans-, genderqueer—than a simple transgender storyline, making it stand out."—Kirkus Review, starred review

"It succeeds in conveying the message that "you are not alone" to transgender youth while helping everyone else get a handle on these often-tortured teens. The author succeeds in her mission to foster "greater understanding and acceptance of gender’s vast and lovely variation."—School Library Journal

"A sincere, profound rendering of sexuality, queerness, and identity."—The Horn Book

VOYA - Alicia Abdul
Without too much melodrama, Freakboy details Brendan's internal conflicts: is he or is he not? But the question is not easily answered, nor should it be. He is confident that he likes girls, but feels intermittent jealousy along with admiration and love for his girlfriend, Vanessa. So while he is not sexually attracted to boys, his body does not feel like a home either. But is dressing as a female the answer? Is an operation necessary? The questions get harder because of Brendan's lack of empathetic support, from a condescending wrestling coach to his distant parents. His new friend, Angel, has already experienced this depression about her own transgendered transformation and is providing quiet support to Brendan. In Clark's debut novel, she tackles an intimidating subject where the verse format does not enhance the emotional connection between the three characters' perspectives and readers, but it does no damage, either. Clark successfully shares the characters' journeys by not providing the answers, instead allowing an intimate and honest portrayal of their confusion. An audience for this book exists: one waiting for a voice for their own thoughts or helping bridge a gap for others. Likewise, it is recommended to readers who enjoy a good verse novel, especially told from multiple perspectives. Teachers and librarians should add it to booklists on bullying and sexuality. Reviewer: Alicia Abdul
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Brandon, a high school wrestler, must face the fact that despite his best efforts he isn't as hyper-masculine as he feels he needs to be. Acceptance of his gender fluidity will prove to be his greatest challenge. Brandon's stepfather, a symphony conductor, appears to need regular validation of his manliness, and his mother undergoes breast enhancement surgery to appear, presumably, more womanly. Vanessa, Brandon's girlfriend, is also a wrestler; she feels she can only have a true win on the mat once her opponent lets go of the thought that she's a girl. When he's not aggressive enough in the ring, Brandon's coach calls him Brenda. Eventually, he meets Angel, an attractive young woman whose birth certificate reads "male." Angel-empowered, self-loving, and equipped to help others-can support Brandon to be at home in his body and in his craving for feminine expression. This book is a strong addition to LBGT and general collections as a compelling story for reluctant readers and an educational piece on a topic that needs discussion. The use of typography for emphasis is occasionally awkward and self-conscious, but overall this novel-in-verse presents a clear, realistic narrative in various voices. It succeeds in conveying the message that "you are not alone" to transgender youth while helping everyone else get a handle on these often-tortured teens. The author succeeds in her mission to foster "greater understanding and acceptance of gender's vast and lovely variation." —Teresa Pfeifer, The Springfield Renaissance School, Springfield, MA
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-09-15
A must-buy that showcases three teen voices in free verse as they experience just a few of the myriad ways people experience gender nonconformity. Brendan is a reluctant wrestler and a dutiful boyfriend. His social life is a minefield, his athlete friends casual with their homophobia. One dreadful day, the wrestling team all dresses as cheerleaders, just a joke--for everyone else. Vanessa is Brendan's girlfriend, a wrestler herself. The only girl on the boys' team, Vanessa defends herself against homophobia at school and a family who tell her, "No boy wants a rough girl." Her love for Brendan is a signpost that she's normal. Angel is an indomitable community college student who's seen her share of the crap life throws at queer kids: beaten and rejected by her father, almost killed by a john. She works at the Willows Teen LGBTQ Center, helping other teens, says she's "blessed to like me / the way I am," and is unbent even by the vandalism Brendan commits in a fit of internalized transphobia. In alternating and distinct sections, these three young adults navigate love, family and society. Angel's position at the LGBTQ center provides narrative justification for the occasional infodump. There are no simple answers, readers learn, but there will always be victories and good people. Though the verse doesn't always shine, it's varied, with concrete poems and duets keeping the voices lively. This gutsy, tripartite poem explores a wider variety of identities--cis-, trans-, genderqueer--than a simple transgender storyline, making it stand out. (Fiction. 12-17)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374324735
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 10/22/2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 251,999
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: HL700L (what's this?)
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Kristin Elizabeth Clark always knew she wanted to be a writer. She began dabbling in haiku in the third grade – this “experimentation” turned out to be a gateway to the harder stuff: book-length verse. She lives and writes in Northern California where she has worked as a child advocate within the juvenile justice system, and as a children’s theatre producer. She is a proud volunteer at Project Outlet in Mountain View, CA.  Freakboy is her young adult debut.

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Read an Excerpt

A pronoun is a ghost
of who you really are
whispering its presence,
taunting your soul.
In you
of you
but not
all you.
my own
He She
Him Her
I You.
Scared that
for scrambled-pronoun
might never
The Name Is Brendan
Dinner table,
silverware gleaming.
Claude the Interloper finishes
telling a story.
Mom passes me steak.
                    “How was your day?”
She’s chirping, despite
surgery two days ago.
I shrug
the missed bus,
the half-hour wait for the next one,
the wrestling practice that blew.
Don’t bother to elaborate.
Mom hates Coach
(almost) as much as I do.
Freshman year
she wanted me to skip holiday practice
so what was left of our family
could go on vacation.
Coach described the importance of
“consistent training and conditioning.”
Said he always mentioned “dedication”
in his college letters of recommendation.
She wavered and then
he told her flat out that
I was the weakest link
and always would be if I was a
mama’s boy who’d miss training.
She was ticked, but
we stayed in town
with the other manly
and dedicated jocks.
He was on my ass today
for getting caught
by a head-and-arm drag.
A crappy thing itself,
our faces so close.
Still he yelled.
And through all the drills
my head wasn’t in it.

Copyright © 2013 by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 1 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 18, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Actual rating 4.5 stars This book took me totally by surprise.

    Actual rating 4.5 stars

    This book took me totally by surprise. I have listened to verse novels before, but have never actually read one myself. I am not opposed to poetry, I just don't typically read it. This book though written in poems never felt that way. It flowed really well, and I was able to get caught up in the story rather quickly. The other bonus of this being a verse novel was that even though it's quite a large book, it a very fast read. Also, the topic is not one that I have read before. I have read plenty of LGBT books, but never one that was focused on gender confusion as this one was. I thought it was done amazingly well, and I highly recommend this book to everyone!

    Brendan is the main character even though it is told in three different POV's. He is the central point of this book. I really enjoyed getting to know Brendan while he was trying to get to know himself. I felt for him and wanted for him to discover what he was looking for and just be happy. He is on the wrestling team and has a wonderful girlfriend who is totally in love with him. He isn't into guys, but he imagines himself as a female. He wonders what it would be like. He is jealous of the soft skin, pretty hair, and general comfortableness girls seem to have with each other. He feels really lost and confused and thinks that he is a freak. He isn't sure what to do, or who to talk to. Angel comes into his life at just the right time. She helps him discover himself and know that nothing is wrong with him.

    Vanessa is his longtime girlfriend. She is a sweet girl and I really did feel bad for her when Brendan pushed her away and shut her out. She is used to his ever changing moods, and has always been the person who Brendan would talk to. She is desperate to find out what he is hiding and why he is ignoring her and acting so distant. Her POV was interesting since she didn't really know what was going on. She was hurt, lonely, and felt like her relationship and first love were slipping away. What I liked the best about her is that she is understanding and very strong even while she is hurting.

    Angel is a Transgender and I loved her POV. She is a very tough person who has been through a lot, and still deals with a lot of stuff. She loves helping people and her heart is in a great place. She has learned a lot through her own experiences and wants to help others who are confused with how they see themselves. More than anything, she wants to find happiness for herself and for others. Being abandoned over and over again throughout her life due to who she is, she has become hardened, but is still a very lively and bright person.

    This book was so eye opening. Not that I didn't know about Transgender people, or how hard things must be for them. It was just great to read a book specifically about it and the confusion that the characters go through. Not only that, but how others around them act whether in a positive or negative way. I thought that the three different POV's was fantastic and it made the story well rounded. It packed an emotional punch as well. Being a book written in verse, it didn't read that way at all. I was able to follow the story just as with any other book. This is definitely an author I will be looking forward to reading again.

    *An advanced copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any compensation.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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