Book Review: Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught

When Jason Milwaukee’s best friend Sunshine vanishes, Jason knows that something is terribly wrong, but solving her disappearance will require pushing through all the voices in his head and then getting the world to listen to him. His schizophrenia is stopping him from remembering the events leading up to her disappearance, and often he discounts his own memories, and his own impressions. But his deep knowledge that he would never hurt his friend, plus the faith of his parents and a few others in the town bring him to the point of solving the mystery. In the end, it’s Sunshine’s own love for Jason (Freak) that persuades him of his own strength and goodness.

 

I really wanted to love Freaks Like Us. I usually appreciate books that deals with mental illness and love a good mystery. However, I was left bored and unsatisfied.

I will start with the positives.

According to the reviews, people struggled through the novel because of the eccentric writing. There many paragraphs that seemed out of place and paragraphs that would leaves english teachers raging.  Also Jason’s narration can also lead to a lot of confusion because you are not sure if its him or the voices are talking. But I feel like Vaught used this style in order to demonstrate the mindset of a schizophrenic. Their minds are sometimes all over the place, and a bit disorganized–just like the writing style. It was smart for Vaught to utilize this style because it makes readers understand a person schizophrenia’s thinking process.

Another great aspect is the accuracy  of Jason’s mental disorder. Sometimes authors tend to either over-dramatize or fails to interpret mental illnesses, but Vaught did a tremendous job of depicting schizophrenia. As the reader, you are in Jason’s head, and you can truly feel the frustrations and confusions many schizophrenics has to endure. Throughout the story, Jason feels like there’s special meaning of all his memories of Sunshine. Furthermore, he struggles with his memory, his constant repetition,  and his voices are always manifesting themselves to put Jason down. All of these aspects are real symptoms of someone who is schizophrenic.

Now lets get to the nitty gritty.

The story was awfully dull. It took me forever to finish, despite it being only a 230 page YA novel. Right from the beginning I guessed what actually happened to Sunshine, and I hate to say that I was right. You know why? Because that ending has been done in every other YA mystery novel. I usually don’t mind predictable endings, but when it’s a mystery, that’s where I draw the line. After I figured out the ending after the third chapter, I was hoping something exciting or unexpected would happened, but really, the story was the most unimaginative book I’ve read in a while.

The characters are also falls into the boring factor. Now, I’m not looking for the snarky typical John Green protagonist, but I wanted character with depth. I got none of that. When Sunshine went missing, I didn’t really care. I never developed an emotional attachment towards her and even when I finished the book, I still didn’t care about her. Its difficult for me to actually read a book where the protagonist is obsessing over someone, who I absolute do not care about. I feel annoyed by the protagonist and want the “shocking” scene to reveal itself so that they can shut up.

Also, as a side note, I felt like Vaught was sort of trying to use Sunshine being mute as a sympathy card. It’s not a bad thing that Vaught did that, but it just didn’t work on me.

Although you know what Jason was feeling, I still felt like I was being told instead of being showed. Again, Vaught did an amazing job of telling the symptoms, but I didn’t see a lot of firsthand action of it and when I did, it was more telling so I wasn’t truly absorbed into Jason’s brain. This loses connection between the reader and the character.

I didn’t care for the parents, Drip (Jason’s best friend) the FBI or any other characters. They really didn’t serve that much purpose to the story other than doubting Jason’s motives. Vaught tries to make the main FBI agent seem important but really there was no point of him even existing in the story.

There also wasn’t a lot true themes. I guess fighting for who you love most is one of them.

I did like the message that one should not treat anybody differently because their mental illness. Everyone is human and we should all be more accepting towards one another.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad book, I just didn’t really feel anything after I read it. I recommend this for people who might be studying psychology, but other than that maybe you should read something a little bit more exciting or thought-provoking.

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