Author: Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Copyright Date: 2013
Brendan seemingly has it all. An adoring sister, a gorgeous girlfriend named Vanessa, and a spot on his high school wrestling team. Too bad he doesn’t have the one thing he really wants: to be a girl. Brendan feels alienated and alone because his gender does not match his inner identity. Written entirely in verse, his story is interwoven with Vanessa’s and a young transgender woman named Angel. Brendan’s secret is killing him, and as he withdraws within himself, he becomes increasingly distant from his relationship with Vanessa. A chance encounter at a bus stop introduces him to Angel, but that blossoming friendship is threatened when Angel discovers that Brendan committed an act of vandalism against a LGBTQ teen center. In short, it’s a story of love, betrayal, and coming of age with a bittersweet ending. Brendan must ultimately choose what is right for himself, regardless of how it affects his family, friends, and loved ones.
The short, poem-like entries of this book are truly amazing. Clark captures countless feelings and emotions of three very distinct individuals with only a few carefully selected words. This style of writing is great for reluctant readers because it is not lengthy and intimidating.
The reader’s heart aches for all three characters who are struggling to understand each other. Brendan’s perspective is particularly heart wrenching because he loves his girlfriend and family, but he feels forced to hide his true self from them. Clark addresses the feelings of gender fluidity that further confuse Brendan. Although he identifies as a girl, he sometimes enjoys being a boy. His experiences are very different from the character of Angel, who is openly living as a transgender woman. The juxtaposition of character stories gives a more complete picture of the transgender experience. Brendan is confused and unsure of his identity, whereas Angel has already made the transition. Vanessa is a cis gender, straight girl in love with Brendan, but unable to cope with his erratic behavior. This book speaks strongly to the struggle of transgender teens and their respective loved ones.
Reader’s Annotation: Brendan feels like a freak. He must reconcile his male body with his true female self, but doing so has a high cost.
About the Author:
According to the author’s website, “Kristin Elizabeth Clark lives and writes in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Northern California. She hikes with her dog and reads to her cats… but she’s not one of THOSE people. Really.
She has worked as a child advocate within the juvenile justice system, as a children’s theater producer, and is a proud volunteer at Project Outlet in Mountain View, California.
Her young adult debut, Freakboy, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on October 22nd, 2013.”
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Coming-of-age drama, LGBTQ
Curriculum Ties: English/Language Arts, Health, Social Studies, Culture & Diversity
- Describe Brendan’s feelings when he breaks the window of the teen center.
- Read one of Angel’s excerpts about the difficulties of dating as a transgender individual.
Reading Level/Interest Age: Grades 7-12, Ages 12-18
Challenge Issues: LGBTQ characters, teen sex, teen partying, self-harm
Chapter 5 of Youth, Pornography, and the Internet (2002)
Justification of Selection:
Aside from being an assigned reading, this book supports an underrepresented community and exposes teens to transgender issues. This is an important supplement to a diverse collection.
Clark, K. E. (2015). Bio. Kristin Clark: Author of Freakboy. Retrieved from http://kristinelizabethclark.com/about/