Word Spelunking

Freaks Like Us - Susan Vaught THREE WORDS: Surprisingly Powerful & PoignantMY REVIEW: It's rare to come across a YA book that deals with mental illnesses in a way that is sensitive, yet startlingly honest; poignant, yet funny and entertaining, yet very real. Susan Vaught's Freaks Like Us is one of those rare books.Jason's best friend Sunshine disappears one day after school and Jason is automatically seen as a suspect because of his unpredictable mental illness. But Jason knows that schizophrenic or not, he would never hurt Sunshine. He tries to push through all the voices in his head and get to the truth because he knows there's something important about Sunshine he can't remember. Something important about someone who may have hurt her. Uncovering this truth means uncovering memories Jason is afraid of reliving, but Sunshine means everything to him and he's willing to fight anyone, even himself, to find her.Freaks Like Us surprised me with its humor, realness, power and poignancy. Vaught has crafted a spellbinding and different coming of age story, and has done so with brilliancy, razor-sharp wit and authenticity.Through Jason (who is called Freak), his ADHD friend Drip and the lovely Sunshine who is a selective mute, Vaught has given a captivating voice to a collection of people whose voices are often unheard. As a practicing psychologist, Vaught brings personal experience, knowledge and authenticy to her writing and this really shines through. Freaks Like Us is, at times, relentlessy honest and startling, but impossible to put down. I quickly read this book in one sitting as I was fully engrossed and invested in the story being told.The story is told from Jason's point of view and as such, the story and flow reflect his complex, unpredictable and, at times, erratic mind. This flow and execution aren't always easy to sift through, but are always necessary. Vaught creates such thought-provoking realism through this execution. I found Jason's thought process and mind to be absolutely fascinating. He's a wonderfully endearing character full of humor, heart and courage. Despite his mental illness and struggles, I think readers will easily be able to relate to Jason and will definitely be invested in his journey. There's a large cast of supporting characters, ranging from Jason's parents to his friends to the school bullies to various police personal, but they are all compelling and well-developed. Jason and Drip's bromance is amusing, while I was deeply moved by Jason and Sunshine's sweet, very real relationship.There's a great deal of the unexpected and surprising in this book, especially when it comes to Sunshine's disappearance. A quarter of the way through the book I was so sure I had it all figured out, and while some things are predictable, I never saw the climactic revelation coming. And the book ends realistically, but with so much hope.MY FINAL THOUGHTS: With its authenticity, laugh-out-loud humor, powerful poignancy and a lot of heart, Freaks Like Us took me to some unexpected places, captivating me from beginning to end. Susan Vaught has crafted a beautiful tale and given a truly remarkable character an unforgettable voice.

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