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Freak Show by James St. James

Title Freak Show
Author James St. James
Publisher Penguin Group
Year 2007
ISBN 0142412317

Teaser/Reader Annotation The same old story – an outcast seeks the homecoming crown – but with a twist. Can the homecoming queen be a Queen?

Plot Summary Billy Bloom is the new student at Dwight D. Eisenhower Academy where the student population is summarily white, rich, and ultra-conservative. Billy Bloom, however, is an openly out and fabulous drag queen – a point which he makes outstandingly clear to his new school. The stereotypical Bible Belles, Aberzombies, and Football Heroes just do not know what to make of this new breed of student let loose in their halls. While Billy could let this get him down, he strides resolutely forward instead. Luckily, not everyone is so quick to judge him. With the help of a good friend, Billy stands up for the outcasts as he seeks the coveted homecoming crown. Along the way he must defend his own beliefs and navigate the trail of a same-sex relationship in a small town even as he fights to rid himself and the world around him of labels.

Critical Evaluation Freak Show uses the same hyper-aware, cutting wit that James St. James became famous for in his first book, Disco Bloodbath which is also known as Party Monster. It is easy to see how this book was awarded the 2007 ALA best young adult novel of the year award with the both the stunning writing and the crazy characters. While it assumes, at all times, that the person reading the book will know who Jayne Mansfield and Paris Hilton are, it never talks down to the reader which is an important quality in a young adult novel. The easy, conversational tone of the writing keeps the book moving and feeling fresh where other books may tend to lag. While snarky and sassy, there is an underlying humor to the writing that will have the reader laughing hysterically. Important to note is that, while it is an LGBT book, it does not define itself as such and focuses on much more than just the character's sexuality. The central theme to it all is acceptance – even as Billy fights for the outcasts, it is obvious that he is longing to be accepted.

About the Author James St. James (born James Clark on August 1, 1966) is an author, screenwriter, and blogger currently living in Los Angeles, California. He was born into a wealthy family in Michigan and spent his youth traveling between there and Florida where his father lived. After high school he moved to New York to pursue performance art at New York University. During this time he was absorbed into the club scene where he met Michael Alig, the main character of his first novel and subsequent films.

His first novel, Disco Bloodbath: A Fabulous But True Tale of Murder in Clubland (1999), is the true story of his life in New York City as a “Club Kid.” His second novel, Freak Show (2007), was the winner of the American Library Association award for the best young adult novel of the year. He now curates an art show for World of Wonder productions and wrights blogs for their website while still having time to go to parties and live the lifestyle he has always loved.

Primary Genre LGBT

Secondary Genre Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties English

Booktalking Ideas

Imagine you were the only one of your kind among your peers. How would you deal with the pressure of being an outcast?

Reading Level/Interest Age 15+

Challenge Issues Homosexuality

1) Become familiar with book and its content.
2) Refer to library's collection policies.
3) Refer to reviews from School Library Journal, Amazon, and Barnes & Nobles.
4) Get reviews from teenagers who are familiar with the book.
5) Refer to the ALA Library Bill of Rights.

Why is it included? I loved James St. James' non-fiction adult book, and when I had the opportunity to read his young adult novel I leaped at the chance.