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The Freak Observer Hardcover – August 1, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up–Sixteen-year-old Loa Lindgren's family is emotionally splintered and drifting following the death of her younger sister Asta, whose Rett syndrome necessitated constant care and kept the family on a rigid schedule. Plagued by PTSD and nightmares about death, Loa clings to household chores, watching over her younger brother, and her beloved physics to rebuild a sense of normalcy. With no real plot, the novel feels fragmentary, mirroring the protagonist's feelings of disconnection. Incidents such as the death of her classmate in the opening pages, Loa's extra-credit physics project on the phenomenon of the freak observer (Boltzmann brain paradox), and her failed relationship with her debate partner are explained in chunks of narrative scattered throughout the text, which may confuse some readers. However, the author has created a likable narrator in Loa. Readers will root for a happy ending, though probably not be surprised by the deliberately ambiguous one that nonetheless hints at a hopeful future. Teens will either love or loathe the book with no middle ground likely for such a unique, disturbing, creative story.–Leah J. Sparks, formerly at Bowie Public Library, MD. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Sixteen-year-old Loa's story begins in a tangle of turmoil. She witnesses a truck strike and kill her friend Esther, an event that too vividly brings back memories of the death of Loa's sister, who suffered complications from Rett syndrome. Loa's parents are angered and haunted by the cruel turns of their lives, so Loa focuses upon her desultory job and her way-out-there astrophysics homework. Woolston's talent for dialogue and her unique approach to scenes make what sounds standard about this story feel fresh and vital. What is most surprising and rewarding, though, is how the novel deprioritizes these dramatic elements to follow the flow of Loa's life—it's difficult to move on from trauma, but sometimes you just can't help it. A nebulous sexual relationship with a boy who posts pictures of himself and Loa on the Internet provides much of the push-and-pull, but it's a new friendship with an odd boy at her new school that offers the best chance of relief. A strong debut about learning to see yourself apart from the reflection you cast off others. Grades 8-11. --Daniel Kraus
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Carolrhoda Books; First Edition edition (August 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761362126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761362128
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,881,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Grade: C-

Loa is one of the saddest characters I've read recently. Ever since her younger sister died of Rett Syndrome, a degenerative disease that left her infantile, Loa's family has fallen apart. Her often intoxicated parents treat her like she's the cause of their problems. Then she witnesses one of her friends run over by a car. Now Loa is friendless and has to work to help support her family as she watches her dreams of college fade with her grades. And, a new friend might be the most harmful of all.

THE FREAK OBSERVER, while filled with gorgeous prose and metaphors for life and science, is a novel without a plot. In many character driven stories, the protagonist develops insight while undergoing growth and maturity. Loa's arc feels almost nonexistent. Her circumstances improve negligibly.

Blythe Woolston can certainly write beautifully. I would have enjoyed the story much more if positive secondary characters in her life played a bigger part, even though her family was realistic in its emotional abuse and dysfunction.

THEMES: family dysfunction, siblings, death, grief, PTSD

THE FREAK OBSERVER might not appeal to all readers, but those with difficult home lives will relate to Loa.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brilliantly written, THE FREAK OBSERVER takes the reader on a journey through Loa's intriguing mind as she tries to deal with the events taking place in the present while making sense of her past. Told in the first person, the character's unique voice draws the reader in as Loa discloses challenging situations in her life and family. The full story gradually unfolds, building toward a satisfying resolution as Loa seeks to make sense of her life through a keen sense of observation, analysis, and emotion.
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Format: Hardcover
Blythe Woolston's first novel is cleverly written and captivating. The narrative character of Loa, is a complex, candid and often humorous one. Although Loa is a strong and extraordinary young woman with troubling nightmares, uncommon responsibilities and a shocking childhood past, she is still a girl easy to relate to and easy to love. Poignant and touching, this story has a natural and easy flow that sucks in the reader, making them desperate to know how it all turns out for poor Loa Lindrgren.
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Format: Hardcover
All Loa got for her troubles was a smack upside the head with a toilet plunger. No "I'm soooo glad you are safe." No "I love you," just a dirty old plunger. "Same-ol, same-ol" in the Lindgren family. Her friend, Esther, had been splattered across the road by a truck. She could picture her running down the embankment and then . . . the driver was out in the road yelling and puking. The trooper had tried to console her in his own funny way by saying that some people ran toward an accident while others ran away. So what kind of person just froze in place and time? Her only consolation prize was that plunger and her father saying, "You could'a been the dead one." It wouldn't be very long before Loa probably wished she was.

Mrs. Bishop, the guidance counselor at school, wasn't much help and everyone else thought of her as "that dead girl's friend" and that simply wasn't cool. Loa had a "glitch in [her] brain" and in her dreams she saw Esther's heart in the laundry basket. She didn't want to sleep because she'd see that heart. Cleaning all night solved that, but she couldn't stay awake forever. They used to call it "shellshock," but now it's called PTSD. They gave Loa six weeks of "grief counseling" because of her screaming at night and nightmares that brought everything back. At the end of her counseling she was supposed to be all cured up, but she knew that Esther couldn't "be alive and dead at the same time like Schrödinger's imaginary cat." Esther was dead and that was that.

It used to be that everyone had their own little orbit around her younger sister, Asta. Now "there were pages missing from Asta's book" and everyone had to tend to her because she never walked, talked, and had to wear diapers.
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Format: Paperback
Loa is a young woman afflicted by loss. Her friend Esther dies in front of her and preceding that her dear little sister Asta, who had a genetic condition, passed away. Loa ties in science to the happenings of her life. Tidbits of biology, physics, and astronomy are scattered throughout the novel. For example, one scientific instrument mentioned is the orrery, a mechanical model of the solar system that mimics the rotations of moons and planets. It's like Loa's personal orrery is out of whack as her familial and social life fall into disorder.

The author's language is absolutely beautiful. As I was reading The Freak Observer, the word raw came to mind. Loa's emotions and thoughts are in the forefront. I could reach out and touch them. If you read the novel you'll come up with several interpretations of the cover, but in my view the main character left her heart bare for the reader to see. I've never read an edgy, literary debut quite like this. I hope to see more novels forthcoming from Blythe Woolston.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was drawn to this book like the TV tells me girls my age are drawn to shoes; it's shiny, beautiful and overpriced.

The book itself really is beautiful. The art on the jacket and on the cover, the style; it's just really cool looking. Not a book that you buy to look good on your shelf, but to look good in your hand.

If someone had given me a synopsis of the book I wouldn't have read it. It is just about a short period of time in the lead's life beginning the day after she sees her friend being hit by a car. She is at the same time dealing with abuse and abandonment and social angst and school...this sounds horrible to me, but somehow I loved the book.

It was engaging and interactive. Woolston is clever and smart and pulls it all off natrually, this is very rare for mainstream fiction. Your comprehension of each page depends on your having read the next one. Really good.
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