Freakboy

Freakboy

by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

A powerful novel in verse told from the points of view of a genderqueer teenager, the teen's girlfriend, and a trans woman

“An important story, written with compassion and startling insight.” —Ellen Hopkins, The New York Times–bestselling author of the Crank trilogy

From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. Brendan is a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving significant other to seemingly perfect match, Vanessa.

But Brendan feels so wrong. Why does Brenan sometimes fantasize having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves? Is there even a name for people like Brendan? People who are assigned male at birth but 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's exploration of gender; Vanessa, who fights to keep her and Brendan's relationship alive; and Angel, a woman who's struggling to confront her own demons.

Praise for Freakboy:

“Debut novelist Clark uses free verse to write a gripping story about a complex topic: the challenges of growing up transgender or genderqueer." —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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250062956
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 11/08/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 218,568
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

Freakboy


By Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2013 Kristin Elizabeth Clark
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-374-32473-5


CHAPTER 1

    Pronoun

    A pronoun is a ghost
    of who you really are
    short
    sharp
    harsh

    whispering its presence,
    taunting your soul.

    In you
    of you
    but not
    all you.

    Struggling,
    my own
    He She
    Him Her
    I You.

    Scared that
    for scrambled-pronoun
    Me,

    We
    might never
    exist.


    (BRENDAN CHASE)

    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,
    shrug
    the half-hour wait for the next one,
    shrug
    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.
    Wrestling Didn't Always Suck
    Miller Prep Academy
    requires a six-term
    commitment to
    at least one sport

    and at first
    it seemed like
    less torture
    than the others.

    No ball to get nailed by,
    or drop. No baton to fumble
    in the last leg of the relay,
    pissing off your teammates.

    Just you and
    your opponent.
    Grappling
    one on one.

    But four years
    of relentless splat on the mat have
    brought out a bunch of little hells
    I'd never even considered

    so that now

    I hate touching other guys.
    I hate my own body.

    And most of all?
    I hate Coach Childers.

    He calls me Brenda.
    I Know What He's Saying
    But I like girls. Always have,
    even in elementary school.
    Sandbox dust in my nose,
    jungle gym–blistered hands.
    Hanging with the guys,
    but glad when a girl'd
    ask me
    to
    play
    something.

    Yeah, mostly the same games
    when it came to
    handball and foursquare.
    But comfortable.
    When you got hurt
    girls'd ask
    what
    was
    wrong.

    Guys would ignore you,
    call you names
    when your eyes watered
    at the pop of a soccer ball to your face.

    If you couldn't stop the tears
    they'd yank out more words,
    like "crybaby" (or worse), to
    hit
    you
    with.

    And I loved the way girls wore their hair.
    Ponytails bouncing, braids smooth.

    Loved the colors they strutted
    across the yard: bright purple, pink.

    Loved other things they played,
    like animal hospital or house.

    Loved the sound of their voices
    when
    they'd
    call
    to
    me.

    Still,
    a shadow lurks
    near the
    edge
    of
    my
    head
    whispering,

    "You like girls too much,

    and not in
    the same
    way
    everyone
    else
    does."
    My Brain Takes Me Freaky Places
    I twitch, gulp milk,
    slam the glass back on the table.

    A salad plate jumps.
    Claude the Interloper frowns.
    Mom winces.
    Sister giggles.

    "Hey, squirt," I say,
    pinning girl-thoughts
    to the mat and
    gaining control
    of my brain.

    "Do you like my princess hat?"

    She tilts her head toward me
    like I might not otherwise
    notice the pink cone,
    its lace ribbon dangling
    close to her mac and cheese.

    I move the plate a little.
    "So you're a princess now."

    "No, Brendy, it's just
    for Halloween!"

    A gap toothed smile.

    I was twelve
    when she was born.
    Everyone said we looked alike.
    Mom's gray-blue eyes,
    Dad's cheekbones.

    But Courtney has it all over me
    in the hair department—
    hers thick, wavy, and long.
    Mine straight, short, and,
    I swear, already falling out.

    Still, she's my favorite person
    besides my girlfriend, Vanessa.
    (Sounds lame, I know.)

    I'm not religious; in fact
    I'm not sure I even believe in God
    (though we used to go
    to church religiously [ha]),
    but from the second Dad
    put her
    into my arms,
    burrito-wrapped
    in a little pink blanket,
    innocent face
    and tiny fingernails,
    I saw Divine
    attention to detail.
    So small.

    So perfect.

    It's not a guy thing,
    but I like babysitting.

    Andy called her chick bait.
    We used to push her stroller
    to the park
    and girls would wander over
    to oooh
    to ahhh.

    When Courtney
    took her first steps
    toward me
    Dad called me smitten.
    Mom called me Little Mother.

    That homey scene in eighth grade,
    on my baby sister's first birthday.

    Exactly one month before
    Mom, the harp player, left
    Dad, the biomedical engineer, for
    Claude, the Interloper.

    Conductor of San Diego Philharmonic.
    His orchestra's music
    poison to my father's ear.
    Dad's banished—2,000 miles away.
    (Not that we hung out a ton
    when he lived closer
    but at least it was an option.)

    Now he's president of a biotech firm,
    seen only in summer
    when Mom needs to dump us—
    "Thanks, James! Ta-ta!!!"—
    so she can tour with
    her new (and improved)
    husband.

    "Big plans tomorrow?"
    she asks.

    "Party at Andy's."

    Claude the Interloper
    raises an eyebrow.

    He doesn't like Andy,
    hates the way he just walks
    into the house without knocking.

    Thinks it's rude that Andy
    checks out the food in our kitchen
    when he's hungry
    and maybe it is—

    but I do the same thing at his house

    and have since seventh grade,
    a year before any of us were aware
    of the Interloper's sorry existence.

    "I wanted to ask if you'd
    take Courtney
    trick-or-treating first."

    Don't mind the trick-or-treating
    but I'm tortured by the reason
    Mom's asking.

    She's recovering from
    "an enhancement procedure"
    and SURPRISE she's sore.

    Still, I avert my eyes
    from her new shape
    and nod yes.

    "What are you going to be?"
    Court asks.

    Now there's a question

    and a depressing memory.


    The Night I Was a Girl

    Last year sucked.
    The whole wrestling team
    went to school as cheerleaders.
    No choice but to go along.

    Shaved legs and everything,
    we all did it—even Rudy and Gil.

    They're team co-captains.
    Jerk-asses, towel snappers,
    the first to bend fingers
    when the ref's on the blind side.

    They told Vanessa,
    "Brenda looks so natural
    she must do this a lot."


    (Angel Hansted)

    Opportunity Knocks
    The bus makes a lurching turn
    and I'm tellin' you,
    I'm thrown against
    the hottest guy ever
    to wear a Halloween-theme tie.

    He has that slicked-back,
    butter-on-hot-corn-wouldn't-melt-
    in-my-mouth, don't-touch-me-I'm-cool
    look—but doesn't lean away
    not at first.

    I can tell he's checking me out
    but isn't gonna be obvious.
    What's the point in being so shy, I
    wanna ask him. Get bold.

    "Opportunity curves"
    is what I say instead. He grins at me
    for a second—then eyebrows raise.
    He gets up and changes seats.

    The smile
    (it wasn't so
    hot after all)
    leaves when he clocks me.

    I mostly pass—but
    I've been made enough times to
    know the exact second it happens.
    And I just wanna say to Mr. Corn-hole
    mouth, "Your loss."

    My stop's next, anyway.
    Toss my head, get off
    at Evergreen Community College.
    Got my GED here.

    I tell you now
    classes are a habit.

    Finish my degree
    (social work major),
    then it's off to difference-making
    full-time employment
    for Angel.

    Maybe I can change up some things.
    Someone's gotta do it.
    Someone like me, I mean.
    Someone who knows simple basics.

    You wanna assign roommates
    in group homes based on birth sex assignment?

    Go ahead, idiot.
    Make it easy for thugs to


    S m e a r
    the Queer.
    Three Years Ago
    My first day at Evergreen
    I was ready for flight OR fight.
    Out of the baking August parking lot
    and into Admissions. I tell you—
    my foster mom hadn't of been there
    I mighta shot back through the door
    like some kind of Olympic runner.

    Stood at the end of the line,
    freezing in my fuchsia tank top,
    turquoise skirt, strappy gold sandals.

    Girl, that building was icy but
    the papers I held were floppy,
    my hands sweatin' so bad.

    Finally my turn. Big crabby-looking guy
    with beady eyes called, "Next."
    I went up to his window,
    handed him my application.
    He looked it over, looked at me,
    and he
    frowned.

    People get uptight
    when your ID
    calls out a gender
    different than what you present.

    My foster mom touched my elbow
    soft — lettin' me know she was there.

    Still, my back was up when
    Beady Eyes stepped away
    to get a supervisor, muttering,

    "Right name, wrong gender."

    And I'd heard it before—
    but God was with me that day.

    Beady Eyes's supervisor
    came to the window.

    "You're Angel?" Adjusted her
    glasses. Looked over them.

    At me.

    I nodded,
    stretched my neck,
    made sure my
    courtesy-of-a-sadistic-
    pervert-john
    collarbone scars
    showed.

    Not afraid of this.
    Ready to lay me down some attitude.

    "We're admitting you today
    but you might want
    to get new state identification.

    "You need a note
    from your doctor and
    signed by a witness,
    the identification you have now,
    and a special form, DL 328.

    "Then your information
    will match you better."

    That sweet little old lady
    winked at me
    and I almost fell over.

    Now every time
    I pull out my ID
    F for Female
    feels like T for Triumph.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark. Copyright © 2013 Kristin Elizabeth Clark. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Freakboy 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Amabe421 More than 1 year ago
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.