TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
Seventh grader Miriam Fisher is the "freak" of the book's title. She's a poetry-writing, flat-chested, mostly friendless middle school girl who is routinely mocked, teased, and tormented by her classmates. Miriam thinks her life is about to change for the better when family friend Artie Rosenberg moves in during his senior year of high school. Artie is a handsome, smart, popular boy who acts in plays and reads poetry. In the past, he has seemed to genuinely like Miriam, treating her kindly and sharing poems and stories with her. But Miriam quickly realizes that times have changed. Artie now sees her as only a smart, ugly little kid. It's Miriam's sister, popular, pretty freshman Deborah, who truly catches Artie's eye. After "losing" Artie, Miriam's whole life seems to spiral downward, as the bullying at school, particularly by ultimate "watermelon girl" Jenny Clarke, intensifies to an unbearable level. How Miriam reacts to the abuse — in ways directed both at herself and at her tormentors — forms the climax of the story.
This is a short, fast-paced novel peppered with poetry and journal entries. While it can be difficult to empathize with Miriam's unlikable character at times, Miriam's breakdown is still devastating and the story as a whole feels real and potent. Unfortunately, it also seems incredibly derivative of past YA novels, right down to the scene where Miriam inadvertently shaves her eyebrows. While it's important to portray the awful effects of bullying, I couldn't help but feel this theme and these plot points had been covered before. If middle school readers are looking for a realistic novel on being an outsider, "Freak" may be a good choice. Otherwise, I'm not sure I'd recommend it.