Every once in a while, I read a book just because of the cover. Maybe I'm just shallow, but I'm a sucker for a great cover! Freaks by Annette Curtis Klause (336 pgs, Simon Pulse) just happens to be one of those books. Both covers are incredible: colorful and mysterious. It's the reason I chose to read this book for Joy's Young Adult Challenge.
When a boy's first romantic interlude is with Phoebe the Dog-Faced Girl, he feels a need to get out into the world and find a new life. So I thought as I stood in the wings and watched Colonel Kingston introduce the next act. Not that I had anything against Phoebe. She was a sweet girl under all that fur. "Oh, Abel," she whispered prettily whenever I brushed her lips with mine, and perhaps she blushed -- who could tell? -- but I was seventeen and yearned to kiss a mouth sometimes without getting hair up my nose.
Come on...with an opening paragraph like that, who could you not love this book??
Abel Dandy had grown up in the world of "Freaks". His parents were considered human oddities, and he lived amongst them in Fairyland, a compound that was the home of Colonel Kingston's Freak show. But because he was "normal", Abel just didn't fit in. His uncle had taught him to throw knives, but there didn't really seem to be much room for a normal boy in a show of Freaks.
So Abel decided he was going to go off and join the Circus, and make his own way in the world. Armed only with his knives and a mysterious Egyptian ring given to him by Rose and Violet, the Siamese twins, Abel left Fairyland to try to make it on him own.
But nothing seemed to work out like it should. The circus that he joined, wouldn't let him try his hand at knife throwing. It was filled with perfect people that looked down their noses at the ones they considered human oddities. Then it was discovered that Abel was followed, and his young friend Apollo, the dog-faced boy, had stowed away with the circus. Since the Marvel Circus had no use for freaks, both were thrown out.
But when the two were picked up by the sinister Dr. Mink and his Monster show, bad things started happening. Abel had a bad feeling about Dr. Mink. But Abel's need to protect the young Apollo and the other children that were being held by Dr. Mink was strong. And what did all of this have to do with the mysterious dreams he kept having about the beautiful Egyptian dancing woman? The one who was calling him to save her.....
Annette Klause has done a wonderful job of painting the world of freaks. She has a special knack for showing us that there is a little "freak" in all of us. This book isn't so much about oddies as it is about acceptance. Accepting who we are and being able to live with that. And accepting others, not matter what differences are between us.
On top of that, there is a great mystery to be uncovered. This book is filled with action from murder to kidnapping.....and even a bit of a ghost story. Abel Dandy is such a strong character. He feels he is lacking in some way because he ISN'T different. And yet, he has such a strong sense of right and wrong, that he is willing to put his own life on the line to help the people he considers a friend, no matter what the consequence. It's a mesmerizing tale, and one that I highly recommend. 4.25/5