Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught

Freaks Like Us
by Susan Vaught
Published: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Available: Amazon

When Jason Milwaukee’s best friend, Sunshine, disappears from the face of the earth, the whole town, including Jason, starts searching for her. But the insistent voices in Jason’s head won’t let him get to the heart of the mystery—he’s schizophrenic, and the voices make it hard to know what is real and what is not. As the chase becomes more panicked, Jason’s meds start wearing off, and he is looking more and more guilty. But of what, exactly?

Both brilliantly witty and intensely honest, this poignant novel draws upon the author’s many years as an adolescent psychologist, but it’s Vaught’s powerful voice and expertly crafted mystery that will keep the pages turning.


I was really impressed with Freaks Like Us. I wasn't really sure what I was expecting, but Vaught surprised me with her honest portrayal of not just schizophrenia, but also the way society treats kids with emotional disabilities.

The narrator, Jason or Freak as his friends call him, is schizophrenic and has been attending the same special class as his two best friends.They refer to themselves and their classmates as Alphabets, identified by their label (SED, ADHD, GAD, SM, ODD, SCZI).

When his friend Sunshine goes missing, Jason is determined to help find her even if it means risking his own sanity. It was interesting to hear things through his mind. There was a certain amount of drifting and unfocused-ness to his thoughts that makes the reader question his perception of people and events. I found it easy to believe in his innocence, simply because he honest doesn't believe he could hurt Sunshine. But on the other hand it is easy to see why the people around him could think him guilty. He makes irrational decisions and acts on them quickly, regardless of how it might look to other people.

I do wish we'd had a bit more development in to the character of Sunshine, but I honestly think that not knowing adds a bit more of a bittersweet feeling to the ending. Up until that point everything we know about her is through Jason, and his memories can't be completely trusted, so we don't really know what happened to her, the extent of her disability, or even how she felt about Jason until the last few pages.

Freak Like Us was a great read, and I will definitely be checking out more of Susan Vaught's work.

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