Freak Show by James St. James
This is one that I read about ages ago when it first came out and, while tempted, never got around to picking it up until just recently one of the reviewers at Publisher’s Weekly put it on their list of top books of 2007.
I want to say that I adored this book. But I can’t quite do it. I like that it has a happy ending and I really, really love Billy Bloom and his narrative voice, but there’s something holding me back from fully committing to this book. I’m afraid that’s the most you’re going to get out of me about it because I don’t know what it is that’s missing. Billy’s awesome and Flip is likable (if you like goofy guys who are, admittedly, not that bright).
I guess maybe the problem is that I’m comparing it to David Levithan’s lovely and utterly perfect Boy Meets Boy which is a very high standard to be compared with. Mostly it’s because, and don’t get me wrong, I’m sure this is a more realistic version of things even if David’s version is how it should be, there’s a bit of angst (not Rainbow Boys angst – see my previous disclaimer about this comparison) and some intense bullying (which I skimmed through, I have to admit). And maybe Flip’s voice bothered me more than I thought it did – it sort of reads as though the author hasn’t spent a lot of time talking with high school boys from small towns and just thought ‘Oh, I’ll throw in a bunch of ‘dude’s and it’ll sound like an authentic teenager.’ I really hope this isn’t how high schoolers really talk or the future of our country is in worse shape than I thought it was…
Still, I really did like it and I would definitely recommend this one over Hero which I didn’t manage to finish. Mostly because Billy’s an awesome creation – it’s his voice that really carries the book – someone who’s likable, confident with an underlying layer of uncertainty which makes him more real, and hilarious when he needs to be.
Just make sure you’ve read Boy Meets Boy first. 😉
My rating: B+