Freak by Jonathan Harnisch
Ben Schreiber knew Wakefield Academy would be a disaster before he even arrived. It would be the same as his last school--the taunting, the judgment, the panic at being an all-too-obvious schizophrenic in a crowd of teenage brats hungry for a target. His fears are confirmed the moment he steps out of his parent's rusty car to the mocking sneers of his posh classmates. So what does Ben do? He retreats into himself, allowing the second being within his body to rise to consciousness--Georgie Gust, an angry, resentful, Tourette's-ridden personality, suspicious of everyone and trusting of none. Georgie navigates Wakefield campus within the smog of self-hate. He hates how his body twitches and his words betray him, hates how his odd walk brings cruel laughter, hates the stares that follow him when he tries to disappear. Georgie quickly attracts a crowd of tormenters lead by a cocky lacrosse player, Ozer. It's Claudia, however--Ozer's beautiful and troubled girlfriend--who captures Georgie's attention. Claudia alone does not join in with her friends' jeers, choosing instead to come to Georgie in friendship, her own demons lurking just beneath skin's surface. Though Georgie fights to believe no one can ever understand him, Claudia does. She is there when he drinks himself into a stupor every night and shows up for class hungover; she is there when he is harassed and beaten by their peers; she is there when his academic brilliance begins to gleam, nurtured by the support of the philosophy professor, Heidi. It is for fear of hurting Claudia that Georgie begins to care for himself; he stops drinking, throws out his cigarettes, and devotes himself to the pursuit of a prestigious scholarship. But nothing is ever so easy. As Georgie begins to heal beneath Claudia's warmth, he fails to see her own troubles. For how could someone so beautiful, smart, and well-liked know what suffering is? Surely, her problems run only so deep as her cheating boyfriend and exam stress. It is Heidi, the philosophy professor, who calls Georgie out on his selfishness. On the edge of a cliff, Heidi accuses Georgie of choosing hatred and isolation, of rejecting the love of others because hate is easier than accountability. Georgie both wants to be loved and desperately fears it. Georgie's defenses, while justified, are selfish ones, and they lead him to miss the warning signs in the one person he loves. One morning Claudia is gone, and it is Georgie who finds her broken body twisted in a tree on that same cliff where Heidi scolded him. So selfishly had he thought he was the only one with illness; she had understood him better than he ever knew. Claudia's death both destroys and saves him. It is for her that Georgie chooses to use his illness rather than hate it; for her, that he laughs at his absurdities instead of fall victim to them; for her that he opens his life and ultimately wins the scholarship. In the end, it is what Georgie thought impossible that leads him out of the darkness: acceptance. If only he'd recognized it before she chose to die.