Sunday, August 7, 2011

Freak Show by James St. James

Billy Bloom has moved in with his father just before his senior year, after an event so cataclysmic that his mother can't deal with him anymore. Billy can't exactly remember what happened, sort of. Now he's in Florida, where his father barely acknowledges him and his only friend is the maid, Flossie, who doesn't like him all that much either. And now he's got to start his senior year of high school in an exclusive, ultraconservative school in the middle of a swamp.

That would make a great set-up for any YA novel. That Billy's a drag queen in training just makes it that much better.

Billy is a greatly likable character. He's vulnerable without even realizing it, dealing with his situation and his mood swings by designing fabulous new outfits or sometimes just hiding in a kitchen cabinet to fantasize about a better life. He can be tough when he needs to be, although he doesn't even realize it. Seeing his friendly overtures rejected is painful even when it's funny.

I won't tell anymore about the plot, since anything at all could spoiler it. I will mention the writing style, since not everyone will like it. It's written in a sort of stream of consciousness from Billy's point of view, which makes it immediate and gives the reader a straight view into Billy's brain. But sometimes I caught myself longing for a few paragraphs of ordinary prose. I found I had trouble reading for more than 50 pages at a time without feeling kind of fractured and hysterical. Your mileage may vary.

I did really enjoy the book, though. Billy's journey is an especially hard one, but I loved how he dealt with everything from gay-bashing to Homecoming. And I only mentioned in passing earlier, but the book is often hysterically funny--although sometimes I was crying at the same time as I was laughing.

B&N link

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