Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Friday, August 17, 2012

Plot Summary:
Billy Bloom is not the average teenage boy. In fact, he is far from average; he is FABULOUS! As a drag princess, Billy has absolutely no qualms about slathering on the white make-up, wearing extravagant costumes, and dawns a loud and proud attitude. In Connecticut, he was the reigning leader of the Gay-Straight Alliance and had the time of his life. However, his mother decided that it was time his nonexistent father took care of him and she shipped him off to the armpit of hell: Florida. After his first day at the Dwight D. Eisenhower High School, Billy knows he is not only an outsider, but a target for bigots, holier-than-thou hypocrites, cruel cheerleaders, and just plain mean people. Although Billy takes refuge into his own world (aka. the cupboard), he has no choice to face this journey on his own since his housekeeper doesn't approve of him and nor do his parents. Just when things couldn't be any more depressing, God sent a little angel, a girl whose name sounds like blahblahblah, scoops him up and befriends him. What's even more shocking, the high school hear throb, and football hero, Flip, actually says something nice to him. Despite these silver linings, the teasing and the taunting escalates. In an attempt to put an end to this viciousness, Billy decides that going to school in full drag will end it up. Sadly, it didn't and it sends him to the hospital. What he didn't know is that the person who came to his rescue was non other than Flip. After the the almost fatal beating, Billy and his peers receive an unexpected lesson that will not only change their opinions about one another, but force them to realize that hate has no place in this world. Furthermore, the more we get to know each, the more we realize that we are all little grains of sands falling through the hourglass no matter good-looking, ugly, straight, gay, stupid, smart, popular and un-popular we are. No one is perfect and Billy and company will learn the reality of this message.   

Critical Evaluation:
HOLY CRAP! I LOVED THIS BOOK! I have to hand it to James St. James when it comes to comic relief. I could not, whatsoever, stop laughing. In this "no holds bar" story, a teens learns the hard reality that despite the fight for equality in progressive communities, there are still quite a few areas that have yet to embrace/learn this lesson. St. James does a brilliant job providing readers with every detail, feeling, ans insight into what it means to be someone who is not only different, but not willing to hold back anything. Billy is probably one of the most patient, vulnerable, and loveable characters I have read in a while. I seriously wish I could meet Billy because not only is he real, he is straight-up honest when it comes to people and their actions.I absolutely love how all of the cultural nuances and references because it not only adds to the humor, it provides readers with examples they can relate to. I will definitely admit that when it hurt when he would tell us about the awful things he had to endure at school and all I wanted to do was get angry and kick come ignorant booty, but, with his courage and grace, Billy continues to tolerate these actions. However, what readers will see, is that bullying is not at all acceptable. Unfortunately, there are still quite a few people who cannot accept people, ideas, or things that are different, especially if it makes them look bad. As much as I hate to say it, Dwight D. Eisenhower High School isn't a fictional place--it's very real. Being a teen is hard enough, but imagine if you are a teen who is not only struggling with adolescence, but struggling with their sexuality and dying to express their individuality. This world is so beyond cruel, it's infuriating, and readers will struggle with these issues as they read Billy's story. However, there is always light at the tunnel because if we can get through to one person at a time, the whole world will chance and we can learn to love others and ourselves. As the infallible Lady Gaga would say:
I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way 

Information about the Author:
According to Amazon.com:
James St. James (born James Clark August 1, 1966) is an American television personality, author, celebutante and former Club Kid of the Manhattan club scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. James St. James was notorious for a lifestyle of excess that included heavy drug use, partying, and bizarre costumes that first brought him to national attention as the subject of Club Kids television appearances and interviews. He wrote Disco Bloodbath (now published under the title Party Monster) that was later made into the feature film Party Monster starring Macaulay Culkin as Michael Alig and Seth Green as St. James. His life was the subject of the 1998 documentary Party Monster: The Shockumentary.
Genre:
Teen Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Queer Fiction

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Freak Show:

Awards & Recognition:
  • Starred Review Publisher's Weekly (3/19/2007)
  • Starred Review Kirkus Review (5/1/2007)
  • Starred Review School Library Journal (6/1/2007)

Resources for LBGTQ Teens:
Resources on Bullying:

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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