Review: Freaks and Revelations

Freaks and Revelations by Davida Wills Hurwin
(Click here to find a library copy.)

SUMMARY:  This raw, moving novel follows two teenagers--one, a Mohawk-wearing 17-year-old violent misfit; the other, a gay 13-year-old cast out by his family, hustling on the streets and trying to survive. Told in alternating perspectives, the novel follows their lives before and after the violent hate crime that changed both their futures. This is a tragic but ultimately inspirational story of two polarized teens, their violent first meeting, and their peaceful reunion years later.  Inspired by the real lives of Timothy Zaal and Matthew Boger, this book is a journey from fear and hate to tolerance and hope.  And it is proof that people can truly change.  (adapted from the inside flap)

OPINION:  I don't have a great imagination.  It's hard for me to understand other people's motivations for doing things that seem crazy to me.  Why would someone become a neo-Nazi?  Why would a child's family kick him out?  That's why I appreciate when authors undertake difficult subjects.  It helps give me insight and empathy for people very different than me.  Although this book is fiction, the author had many interviews with the men whose real lives inspired the story.  She created a believable, although harsh, path for both characters that allowed me to see the progression that led to the extremes of their lives.  Both boys are outsiders, but in completely different ways, and each comes to his own revelations.  I particularly appreciated Paul's accurate intuition that secrets are what has torn his family apart. The timeline of the book seemed to speed up as the story progressed, leaving me wishing for more writing about both of their adult lives, particularly Doug's transformation into a full neo-Nazi.  This book is a challenging read, as you descend into lives filled with pain, racism, homophobia, and violence.  I recommend this book to high school readers looking to read outside of their own experiences.  You won't be disappointed.

NOTE:  Freaks and Revelations was just listed as a 2010 Stonewall honor book.  The Stonewall Book Awards are given annually to English-language works of exceptional merit for children or teens relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience.  It's always great to look at award lists and have actually read one of the books!

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