Friday, August 13, 2010

"Freak Magnet" by Andrew Auseon

A novel about freaks, geeks, crushes, and friends - and how sometimes you can be all of them at once.

Charlie is the freak. Gloria is the freak magnet. They're pretty much destined to meet. And when they do, sparks fly... for Charlie. Gloria, well, she just thinks he's like every other freak who feels compelled to talk to her, although a little better-looking than most. While Charlie has his head in the clouds, Gloria's got hers in a book: her Freak Folio - a record of every weirdo who's talked to her in the last year (it's a big book). But never before has she felt the pull to get to know one of them better. Until now.

In this he-said-she-said tale of love, loss, and lucky signs ...... two young strangers at a crossroads in their lives become friends by happy accident (okay, maybe some harmless stalking is involved - and not by the person you'd think!) - and forever change each other.

As one of the members of our library system's Collection Development team, I was excited to read a synopsis of this book. It sounded like just the thing for our young adult readers, a group that I've been trying to increase in numbers and frequency. It's a "normal" book, too, not a vampire or werewolf in sight, something that I really wanted us to have. Not that I don't like the supernatural stuff - just been seeing an awful lot of it lately and wanted to have a more balanced collection.

The other reason I wanted us to have this book is nostalgia; I myself was a freak magnet during my high school days. My best friend at the time (and she knows who she is!) felt the same way, and we'd often sit at our local Dairy Queen lamenting the fact that the only boys who seemed to want to talk to us were geeks, freaks, and general weirdos. We were worried that we were sporting some sort of invisible tattoos on our foreheads that could only be read by the strange boys in our town. None of the "cool" or "cute" guys gave us the time of day, just the ones that embarassed the hell out of us. So when a book comes along about two kids in high school, a love story of sorts, and the title is "Freak Magnet" - well, it was a no-brainer that I was going to pick this up for my branch.

The character development is good, and I liked the way Auseon bounced between Charlie's and Gloria's viewpoints. (Charlie's chapters are all titles "Freak", and of course, Gloria's are all titles "Magnet"). The story isn't half bad either, and I felt like the author was paying homage to the classic John Hughes movie "Pretty in Pink" with his ending. My biggest complaint with this novel is all the extremely serious drama going on in each teen's life: Charlie's mom has a debilitating fatal illness, Gloria's brother was killed in Afghanistan, Charlie's best friend Edison was in a horrible accident and permanently lost the use of his legs, etc. I realize the author wants to show that both of these kids aren't as different as they think they are, but at times it just seemed like too much. I sort of felt like I do when watching the Olympics now - everyone has a sob story. Doesn't anyone have the right to a happy childhood? I think it would have been more interesting if Gloria had been more "normal", as it would truly take a special person to see past Charlie's "freakdom".

But that's just my opinion. And trust me, it's not so morbid that I wasn't rooting for these two to realize they really love each other - I was the whole time I was reading this book! I'm a sucker for a happy ending, after all. However, I'm not entirely sure Auseon gave them one....

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