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Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught

Freaks Like Us

by Susan Vaught

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Review: Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught.

This was a great book and well written. The story deals with mental illnesses in a sensitive way, yet intellectually honest, heartrending emotional, yet tastefully funny and entertaining, yet very genuine. This was a great open-minded, informative and descriptive honest story.

The book is about a boy named Jason who is schizophrenic and struggles with voices. His two best friends are Dirk (ADHD) and Sunshine (SM-selective mute). So they call themselves “Alphabets” after their various mental illness abbreviations. The story is told from Jason’s point of view and the story reflects on his complex, unpredictable erratic behavior when it came to his friend Sunshine disappearance. I loved the way Susan Vaught describe the unfolding of Jason’s mind as he weathered through his turmoil of decisions and negative voices.

I found Jason’s thought process and mind to be fascinating. He’s a wonderful endearing character full of humor, heart and courage. There’s also a cast of supporting characters ranging from Jason’s parents to his friends to the school bullies to various police personal who are all convincing and well developed. Susan Vaught captured the essence with perfection of certain mental illnesses in an honorable approach to help the reader feel and understand the power behind the story and subject matter.

( )
  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
A fast-paced, tautly written, gripping story told from the POV of a schizophrenic teen. ( )
  Sullywriter | May 22, 2015 |
Full review on Reader's Dialogue: http://readersdialogue.blogspot.com/2013/04/freaks-like-us.html

Let me start with saying that Susan Vaught is a psychologist - and after reading this book, I'd recommend her to anyone I know! She obviously gets people with these illnesses - the descriptions of Sunshine's selective mutism and Drip's ADHD just sound so right, like she gets to the heart of how they think. And that is, of course, overshadowed by the way Freak is written.

Even though the entire story happens over one 24-hour period, except for the epilogue, I felt like I really got to know how Freak lives on a daily basis. Because of the style of the novel, with glimpses into Freak's mind-voices and flashbacks, which Freak tries so desperately both to remember and to forget, there are so many layers. So many issues were touched on, the way he has to deal with the voices and sift through what's real and what isn't, his own self-image, how others perceive him and behave towards him, and most touchingly, I felt, was the detail about his name. It shows so much about how he and the other "alphabets" view themselves. Agent Mercer showcases that really nicely.

And I really had tears in my eyes during Freak's (almost) last conversation with Agent Mercer. Much more than a story about a missing girl, this is the story of people with disabilities and their place in the world, and seeing Agent Mercer's developing interactions with Freak and Drip - I cried. Literally, no exaggeration. I cried.

And I cried again, even more, at the epilogue.

I'm going to leave it at that. This is a brilliant book. ( )
  EstherShaindel | Apr 30, 2013 |
Freaks Like Us is a unique bildungsroman written from the first person POV of a schizophrenic boy named Jason. Vaught allows the reader a glimpse into a schizophrenic's mind as the medication slowly leaves his system. This look into schizophrenia is both heartbreaking and inspiring. It is heartbreaking because people have to live that way, but it is inspiring because there are people like Jason who can deal with this disease and actually function, to an extent, in society. The mysterious disappearance of Sunshine took a back seat, in my opinion, to Jason's battle for sanity. If nothing else, this novel shows that more work needs to be done in order to ease the symptoms associated with schizophrenia.

For someone who is trapped inside his own head, Jason is incredibly selfless. He doesn't feel sorry for himself. He simply deals with his disease and carries on. He does the best he can for himself, those around him, and most of all, for Sunshine. His feelings for her make him a much more endearing character. It is clear from his jumbled thoughts that he would do anything for Sunshine and is willing to risk his own life to ensure her safety.

The voices in Jason's head were heartbreaking. They taunted him and called him names. As the medication left his system (he refused to take more because it'd make him sleep, and he didn't want to sleep, he wanted to find Sunshine), he also began seeing horrifying images, such as bleeding walls and people's faces melting. Even reading this first person account, I still can't imagine what someone with schizophrenia goes through on a daily basis. Those people are so much stronger than anyone gives them credit for.

The mystery itself was pretty easy for me to figure out, but even though I knew what had been going on with Sunshine, I couldn't figure out where she went. I thought one thing had happened to her, and it was something else entirely. The fact that Jason was able to solve the mystery when no one else could is a statement to how intelligent and underestimated schizophrenic people really are. Vaught does a good job at making her case that mental illness does not equal a lack of intelligence, or a hopeless life However, she does not preach about it. The story illustrates her point wonderfully.

The writing style, of courses, is jumbled, and at times the story is hard to follow. This book is important and needs to be read, but it takes a certain reader to have the patience to make sense of what goes on in Jason's head. I feel like this novel could have offered more to the mental health community had it been an easier read.

Overall, I'd recommend this novel to anyone who wants to read something different. If you can make sense of Jason's thoughts, the story itself is beautiful, captivating, and heartbreaking. The treatment of people with mental illness is an important topic that needs to be addressed, and Vaught does a good job at opening a dialogue concerning this topic. I hope that more books dealing with mental illness will follow in this one's footsteps. ( )
  AmberFIB | Sep 20, 2012 |
I was really impressed with Freaks Like Us. I wasn't really sure what I was expecting, but Vaught surprised me with her honest portrayal of not just schizophrenia, but also the way society treats kids with emotional disabilities.

The narrator, Jason or Freak as his friends call him, is schizophrenic and has been attending the same special class as his two best friends.They refer to themselves and their classmates as Alphabets, identified by their label (SED, ADHD, GAD, SM, ODD, SCZI).

When his friend Sunshine goes missing, Jason is determined to help find her even if it means risking his own sanity. It was interesting to hear things through his mind. There was a certain amount of drifting and unfocused-ness to his thoughts that makes the reader question his perception of people and events. I found it easy to believe in his innocence, simply because he honest doesn't believe he could hurt Sunshine. But on the other hand it is easy to see why the people around him could think him guilty. He makes irrational decisions and acts on them quickly, regardless of how it might look to other people.

I do wish we'd had a bit more development in to the character of Sunshine, but I honestly think that not knowing adds a bit more of a bittersweet feeling to the ending. Up until that point everything we know about her is through Jason, and his memories can't be completely trusted, so we don't really know what happened to her, the extent of her disability, or even how she felt about Jason until the last few pages.

Freak Like Us was a great read, and I will definitely be checking out more of Susan Vaught's work. ( )
  AngelaFristoe | Sep 19, 2012 |
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To the many young men and women who have given me the privilege of working with them over the years. I admire your courage and strength.
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Some days life makes more sense than other days.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A mentally ill teenager who rides the "short bus" to school investigates the sudden disappearance of his best friend.

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