Freak, by Marcella Pixley is the story Miriam Fisher; an average seventh grader, she is somewhat of a loner and definitely not one of the popular girls. Not an ordinary girl, Miriam reads the dictionary for fun and her avant-garde attitude leads to discussing Shakespeare, she is the object of ridicule at school by classmates who abhor someone different. Miriam’s older sister and one-time best friend and family confidant Deborah, has discovered her “feminine attributes” and become popular, shunning her school. When the son of a family friend, Artie, a senior, moves in for the year Miriam is thrilled; sure in her twelve-year-old world that he is her soul mate. Things go from bad to worse as Artie and Deborah are soon a couple, and a girl at school targets Miriam for taunts and practical jokes. With no where to turn, and the taunting escalating to bullying Miriam takes matters into her own hands, finding inner strength, purpose, and willingness to accept responsibility for her own actions.
From Miriam's bewilderment regarding her sister's reluctance to associate with her in school, to her anger at the school bullying, character voices ring true. There are many layers to this novel, as well as various shades of gray. Readers gain insight to Artie and Deborah, keeping them from being one dimensional and the adults are portrayed with realism, as opposed to cartoon caricatures so many juvenile novels employ. A middle school teacher, Pixley presents day-to-day school activities with realism. While the ending is rather abrupt, Miriam’s strength of purpose is not only understandable, but enviable. Anyone who has felt alone or different will find a heroine in Miriam.
This is a powerful first novel. If you think you have forgotten what it’s like to be in high school, this book will bring back all the memories, good and bad.
Tags: Marcella Pixley, Freak, Juvenile fiction, Juvenile fiction - bullying