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Freak Show Hardcover – May 17, 2007
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—Teenage drag queen Billy Bloom explodes onto the conservative scene at Eisenhower Academy, where he finds love and a band of blond sadists. St. James tells the oldest story in the book, the one where an outcast seeks the homecoming crown, only this time a queen wants to be Queen. Billy's bold, bawdy narration makes Freak Show not only cohesive but also immensely entertaining. Readers will relish his conversational voice, naughty humor, celebrity put-downs, unabashed exuberance, and ALL CAPS expletives. Beneath the sequins, feathers, and foundation, Billy nurses an ardent desire for acceptance. Teens will quickly identify with his worries and needs, even as he dons lip gloss and a beehive wig. Billy shirks labels (he calls himself a "Gender Obscurist"), and this book also refuses to be defined by sexuality. Yes, Billy falls for another boy, and yes, they do kiss. Teens will find this romance fresh and fun, but they will also enjoy exploring complicated issues of empowerment, bigotry, self-esteem, and fear. Freak Show visits these difficult regions of adolescence with gracious candor and humor. More buoyant than weighty, this book flows as a fast-paced, snarky story of high school horrors. Mature readers will love St. James's playful rendition of a conventional American tale.—Shelley Huntington, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
-School Library Journal, starred review
In Billy Bloom, St. James has created an archetypal hero for outsiders and freaks.
-Publishers Weekly, starred review
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Top Customer Reviews
Party Monster: A Fabulous But True Tale of Murder in Clubland
I sincerely hope this becomes a movie. If it does, you better believe I will pull up to the premiere in a giant purple stilleto, decked out in my best SuperFreak costume and proudly waving my scarlet F in the air! EVER UPWARD, O FREAK OF NATURE!
And yet, how could I not love him?
Billy is rich and oblivious. And extremely nelly. And a drag queen. At seventeen. Having been suddenly shipped to southern Florida by his crazy mother to stay with his grouchy, disapproving father in the family’s ancestral mansion, Billy suddenly finds himself in a snooty private school full of blond conformists and jocks.
Not the least of whom is Flip Kelly. Football star. Blond, blue-eyed. The whole nine yards.
But this arch, funny, harrowing and ultimately moving novel is really not about a gay teenager into extreme drag; it’s about agency. James St. James (irritating, assuredly fake name, but OK, I’ll just take a deep breath) has taken a standard LGBT/YA story about a sissy boy falling for a big gentle jock and turned it inside out.
Billy is clueless, but he’s also fierce.He is narcissistic but also kind. He is so oblivious he refers to the one girl in school who’s nice to him as Blah Blah Blah, until he finally learns her name: This is simply one step in Billy’s gradual apotheosis into self-awareness.
“The choice is yours.”
There is violence and teenage meanness of the worst sort in this book. But, as in other YA books, there is redemption and the genuine love of a few good people who literally save Billy’s life. But, in the end, it is Billy who takes charge of his own destiny.
“These moments are going to keep coming, and it’s how you react to them that defines you.”
“But God,” I asked, trembling, “how do I bring reason to the anger and chaos, when its reasons are hidden from me?” And God said: “You forgive.”
Inside the chaotic silliness that is Billy Bloom’s world, there is a powerful soul. It is about survival, not just to survive, but to make the world better with your own insane courage.
Really pretty remarkable.