Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Freak Observer - Blythe Woolston

Summary:  For eight years, Loa Lindgren's world ran like one of those mechanical models of the solar system, with her baby sister, Asta, as the sun.  Asta suffered from a genetic disorder that left her a permanent infant, and caring for her was Loa's life.  Everything spun neatly and regularly as the whole family orbited around Asta.

But now Asta's dead, and 16-year-old Loa's clockwork galaxy has collapsed.  As Loa spins off on her own, her mind ambushes her with vivid nightmares and sadistic flashbacks-- a textbook case of PTSD.  But there are no textbook fixes for Loa's short-circuiting brain.  She must find her own way to pry her world from the clutches of death.  (Summary from book - Image from www.lernerbooks.com - Book given free for an honest review).

My Review:  Loa’s world was blown out of orbit the day her younger sister died.  With Asta gone, her family fell apart, her life evaporated and now she’s floundering, plagued with nightmares and bizarre hallucinations that she can’t seem to escape.   The Freak Observer follows Loa’s life as she works through her feelings of grief, panic, loneliness, and betrayal.  It was not a book that I raced through, or even particularly enjoyed, but I did appreciate the experience and Loa’s insightful observations. 

Laced with dark humor and acerbic wit, Loa’s voice was honest and undeniably unique.  Despite her rough edges, her love for her younger siblings was tender and moving.  I connected with the discouragement and despair that she felt, the loneliness and pain that came from suffering through a series of tragic losses and family instability.  I don’t know if I would like Loa if I met her – you know, if she weren’t fictional – but I feel like this book helped me to better understand the pain, confusion, and anger that accompanies loss. 
Unfortuantely, parts of this book didn’t resonate with me.  I didn’t understand the concept of the “freak observer,” how it factored into the story, or, let’s face it, any of the physics-based chapter headings.  It’s likely that the subject matter was miles over my head – it’s been quite a while since I’ve had a conversation that wasn’t about diapers, time-outs, or morning sickness – and that  a sharper mind might fare better.  However, my biggest problem with The Freak Observer was the frequent  use of profanity that really wasn’t necessary for the story, and Loa’s indifferent and casual attitude about sex.  It might not bother everyone, but it bothered me, and I’m not a particularly sensitive reader. 
For all its darkness, The Freak Observer did end on a positive note, but even so, I’m not sure if I’d recommend this book to just anyone.  Loa’s voice, and her raw, honest emotions were what compelled me to keep reading when otherwise, I might not have finished.

My Rating: 3 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Plenty of profanity (of all kinds), underage drinking, and some vague but entirely-too-casual underage sex.  Seriously, she might as well have been taking out the trash.

Sum it up:  Honest with a unique voice. 

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