Children's and Young Adult Literature
Young Adult Book Review: Freaks Like Us
by Judith Hayn
Vaught, S. (2012). Freaks like us. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.
Jason Milwaukee is 17 and like his best friends Derrick and Summer, he shares a self-contained classroom with other “alphabets,” so labeled because of their acronymic disorders. Jason is called "Freak" because the voices in his head perpetually echo that name accompanied by other epithets and visions because he has GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) and is SCZI (Schizophrenic). Derrick or "Drip" is ADHD while Summer is SM (Selective Mute), and it is her sudden disappearance after school one afternoon that triggers this compelling mystery. Freak’s feelings for Summer have apparently morphed into romance, but will the friendship the three friends share be mistaken for his and Drip’s guilt in her disappearance? Freak cannot verbalize his racing unsynchronized thoughts to uncover what he does know about Summer’s despair and hopelessness.
Susan Vaught delineates Freak’s character through first person narrative by using his rational observations accompanied by his troubled thoughts which only he can discern. This makes for challenging reading that is well worth the effort. Freak is much more than mentally unstable as Vaught meshes his illness into action, and the reader enters his chaotic mind. The fear and panic that engulf Freak are almost visceral as he tries to prove his innocence and find his friend.Freaks Like Us is a powerful reminder that there is something freakish in all of us—indeed, a novel to arouse empathy and awareness.
Dr. Judith A. Hayn is an associate professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
This article is part of a series from the Network on Adolescent Literature Special Interest Group (SIGNAL).