Thursday, September 30, 2010

Freak Show

Meet Billy Bloom, drag queen extraordinaire and new student at the ultra-white, ultra-rich, ultra-conservative Dwight D. Eisenhower Academy. Actually, "drag queen" does not begin to describe Billy and his fabulousness. Any way you slice it, Billy is not a typical seventeen-year-old, and the Bible Belles, Aberzombies, and Football Heroes at the academy have never seen anyone quite like him before. But thanks to the help and support of one good friend, Billy's able to take a stand for outcasts and underdogs everywhere in his own outrageous, over-the-top, sad, funny, brilliant, and unique way.

I'm not too sure what to think of this one.

I'm having difficulty buying it, honestly.

Life, for Billy, goes from getting his brains bashed in during biology class to running for homecoming queen.

Yes, you've guessed it: Billy is a drag queen, and an over-the-top fabulous one at that.

I (miraculously) found this at the library; I'd been wanting to read it for a few weeks. So I picked it up and started reading immediately (even though common sense told me to finish the other 20 books on my pile first). At first, it wasn't too bad. Billy seemed to be a great character, and if it wasn't for ALL THAT ANNOYING RANDOM CAPITALIZATION AND ITALICS AND BOLD TEXT, I thought, at the time, that this would be (another) great coming of age gay book.


I'll give it to you, it was a real shocker of an eye-opener. The bashing, at the beginning, especially had me moved. The life 17-year-old Billy leads is somewhat too realistic for me to bear, since I'm positive kids get beaten to a pulp for who they are in these crazy hell holes we call 'high-school'.

But then, Billy just didn't learn. He shows up in Drag garb again, and again, and again. He made me groan in exasperation. Sure, he's a great model of determination and resilience and knows exactly what he wants, and who he is, and has the courage to be who he is, but then... There seems to be nothing under the makeup. He seems to be just an empty husk at times. Fine, he has interests in everything stereotypically gay but... Does that make him a deep and meaningful character?

One thing I don't know, though, is whether the gay community would take this book as an insult or a touching cry of a teenage boy. Billy is OVER THE TOP. He's... Too much. Sure, there are Drag Queens in real life too. I acknowledge and accept it.

But, even whilst being incredibly true and powerful, Billy's CAPITALIZED speech and maneurisms and obsession with looking like a freak (his word, not mine) somehow doesn't ring true. Indeed, there just something... in the random capitalization... and how he never learns... and is practically a masochist... and then the cool kid who becomes his best friend... That makes me sceptical about the whole thing. He kind of loses points for credibility, to say the least.

Two things I have to give the author is that, first of all, he has exceptional vocabulary. Honestly, once or twice I needed a dictionary to figure out what he really meant in a said sentence. And the pop culture references were also varied and numerous. Secondly, there were one or two moments where I burst out laughing during class and got a few weird looks from my piers. There were also a lot of funny moments that made me smile, but I wouldn't say the whole book was laugh out loud funny. I got pretty dramatic at times.

In retrospect, I'd say it is a good read, and definitely a mind-opener. Recommended as the next book you'll order from the library, but not necessarily from the bookstore.

Aww, shoot. Now I'm writing with excessive italics and CAPITALS.

- Aithen

Freak Show by James St-James
Rating: 7,7/10

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