Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Page Count: 448.
Published: October 22, 2013.
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR).
Source: Requested for review from the publisher. Thank you, Macmillan, for the ARC!

Goodreads Synopsis:
From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys 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 trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.

My Review:

My initial approach to this novel went something like: "Written in verse... interested. Blurbed by Ellen Hopkins... very interested. About transgender and gender fluidity... count me in." Now, I have two personal requirements for novels about this kind of sensitive and important topic: it must be respectful and I must not feel like the author is passing judgement in any way. Thankfully, it is clear that Clark is fully aware of the sensitive nature of the topic and deals with it in a wonderful manner. This honestly contributed greatly to my enjoyment of her novel.  

Freakboy tells the story of three young people, Brendan, Vanessa, and Angel. They are each in a different place in life and dealing with some very tough problems. Brendan feels like sometimes he would rather be a girl than a boy and not only is this a concept he does not understand, it is also one he thinks he's wrong for feeling. Vanessa is trying to understand why her boyfriend (Brendan) is pulling away and becoming more distant, and what that means for her and for their relationship. Angel is a happy transgender girl who has escaped a rough, disapproving past and found a place where she can be herself and help others, but that doesn't mean all her issues are resolved.

The characters each have their own ways of dealing with their problems and I felt like they were developed as individuals very well. There were times when I wanted Brendan's and Vanessa's voices to be a little bit more distinguished from one another, but overall the three-way narrative worked because it was easy to follow each as an individual. The story also had some slow moments, but this book is about the characters, not largely plot-driven, so it's understandable. They were characters that I grew very sympathetic to as their struggles developed and, though I liked Angel's narrative the best, they were all enjoyable to read and each had elements I was able to connect to.

When it comes to the transgender and gender fluidity aspect of the book, I thought Clark was smart and honest but also very respectful in her portrayal and discussion. As someone who doesn't have any personal experience with this, I appreciated getting the varied perspectives: Angel, comfortable and quite established with her sexuality; Brendan, only just really starting to actively question his; and Vanessa, someone else experiencing it from the outside only, but with someone she loves as a romantic partner. This really helped to tell more than one story and type of experience in the one novel. Most importantly, as I mentioned above, I thought these experiences felt genuine and respectful. Because these are so often difficult experiences for those living them, to pass judgement in something that I believe is meant as a tool to help would be very hard to swallow, so thank you to Clark for handling it the way she did and for telling these stories.

As for the writing, I think having been exposed to so much Ellen Hopkins and being so appreciative of her handling of verse brought me in with expectations that were slightly too high, but I think Clark has a great grasp on verse writing and there were multiple passages that I thought were very effective primarily for the way they were presented. I see a lot of potential in Clark's already enjoyable writing style and I will certainly be reading her next work.

Overall, Freakboy is a great read that really looks at the confusion that comes with someone questioning their sexual identity and how that affects themselves and their relationships with others. I really enjoyed the varied narratives Clark presented and I think she gives great insight into a struggle that a lot of people wouldn't otherwise have a grasp on understanding.
4 stars.


  1. It's awesome that Clark handled these topics so well. It sounds like a really interesting and insightful read. It's also cool that she added an observer type character. It sounds like she covered her biases so that everyone reading could relate in some way. I wonder if she was inspired by RENT with the Angel character? Even though in RENT, Angel and wasn't transgender.

    1. I agree, the observer character was a great addition. I was very impressed with how Clark handled it, both from the LGBTQ perspective and from the relatable aspect. I'm not sure about the inspiration there, especially because I haven't seen RENT... *ashamed musical fan*

  2. I'm a huge cover girl and the cover looks gorgeous, very different. I've never rad books like this one and it's got me interested. Adding it to my Goodreads TBR list now.

    1. It is a very cool cover, and I think it's great for such a unique book. Definitely worth the read!


I'd love to hear what you think!