“If you want to slum it, that’s your thing.” Logan shrugged. “But I might marry your sister someday, and I don’t want to have any little carnie bastards for a niece or nephew, so just be sure you wrap it up.”
Freeks is set in 1987 in a travelling carnival that has set-up in small town Caudry, Louisiana. The carnival is home to people both with and without powers, abilities, or physical abnormalities like a third leg (I LOL’d when I read about the guy with a third leg, and then I realised he actually had an extra leg as opposed to – y’know, that other thing). Our main protagonist, Mara, is the daughter of the carnival’s fortune teller but has no powers herself.
The book follows a typical narrative for a lot of YA supernatural romance. Girl meets boy. Girl finds herself drawn to boy for inexplicable reasons. Girl thinks boy will not like her if he learns the truth about her. Boy has secrets of his own. Girl and Boy find out what those secrets are and still like each other. Girl and Boy go through some sort of dangerous trial together.
I don’t want to sound too flippant because I know a lot of people really enjoy this stuff. But if you’re looking for something groundbreaking or a story that breaks the mould – this is not it.
Now, with all that said, I actually enjoyed this story for what it is. Sure, it follows the usual format for this genre, but that format is popular for a reason. Freeks does it well, and builds up an interesting and rich environment in the process. The book also provides enough description and back story of minor characters that it really adds to the complexity of the travelling carnival environment and you feel that any one of those characters could lead a series of their own. Personally, I want a book focusing on Mara’s ancestors!!
This book has a bit of diversity in it. Mara is not white. She is part Indian and part lots of other ethnicities that are not white. It’s too bad then that the cover makes her look like Khloe Kardashian. There’s also a gay relationship. I liked that the author treated the relationship just like any other relationship. They are together, they worry about one another, they get mad when the other one does something stupid. I didn’t feel like the author was trying too hard to insert a gay couple for the sake of diversity and I really appreciated that.
If there is one literary trope I simply can’t walk past, it’s a carnival.
I blame that TV show from back in the early 2000’s. You know the one set during the dust bowl era? That was so good! I wish they would bring it back and finish it off!
I liked Freeks. But my carnival love might have a lot to do with that. For a book set in the late 80s its characters are quite modern. My major gripe with it is that it isn’t as gritty as I would have liked. Life is fairly idyllic in the carnival. The carnies are like a family. The Brady Bunch to be exact. There’s no discord or dysfunction like a real family, or a real group of people anywhere, and that’s a bit annoying.
While Mara is not your typical damsel in distress waiting for a man to save her. Everything about Gabe is typical. Literally everything. What I would really like, is a darker, dirtier, grittier version of this book. It would not be a YA obviously, but I would love something to really sink into that wasn’t quite so rose-tinted.
Have you read Freeks? Did you love it? Hate it? Read it and forget about it? Are you drawn to books set in Carnivals like I am? Can you recommend something with a similar setting but a little grittier?