Book Review: Freaksburg
Reviewed by Jadidsa Perez
A remarkable sci-fi novel that expands our understanding of memories, imagination, and how we function
While Freaksburg is a far cry from John Casey’s typical workload as a writer and researcher for the Fashion Institute of Technology, it’s a testament to his varied skill. It certainly fits into the sci-fi genre, but it serves a dual purpose as a coming of age story that illustrates the way our minds can be both our most trusted companions and our own personal prison.
Freaksburg follows Jackie, a young boy living in rural Pennsylvania. Fresh into the 70s, Jackie and his family live a picturesque All-American life. That is—until glowing spheres appear in the sky. And unexplained creatures begin stalking in their backyard. Jackie, an outlier, is drawn to these strange happenings and forms an unlikely relationship with Queen Maeve, queen of the fairies.
“That’s what it’s like when the invisible world forces its way into the visible. You’re going about your day when something gives way and the impossible floods the visible world and its shadowy, mysterious presence rolls over like a beautiful, black wave, standing every hair on your body at full attention.”
Freaksburg not only succeeds in creating harrowing monsters, grotesque happenings, and beautiful fairies as a contrast, but also one of the most sincere coming of age stories that I’ve ever read.
While the sci-fi elements become a bit scarce as the book continues, I found myself wholeheartedly interested in Jackie’s growth, his best friend, and the otherworldly abilities of his grandmother. He’s as flawed as he is honest, and he navigates the supernatural in a way that makes him a genuinely likable protagonist. There’s also quite a bit of humor in the book, especially with Sister Mary Jane being a nun with a certain vice. The novel experiments with different ideas without forgoing the story.
While Jackie is a good, likable protagonist, his tone and voice stay the same from childhood to adulthood. His internal self stays quite stagnant, making it feel often stuck in 1970s Pennsylvania. There’s a build-up to the ending, which delivers an important message, but I’m left wondering if the story could have expanded beyond the ending.
I’d recommend Freaksburg to sci-fi fantasy fans that want their speculative elements in a strong realistic setting. It also does a wonderful job in telling a touching story of a character finding their place in the world.
Publisher: Stone Tiger Books
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy / Coming of Age
Print Length: 273 pages
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