Freakboy by Kristen Elizabeth Clark


Brendan Chase isn’t sure what is going on in his mind, or body. Besides his annoying stepfather, (who his mom left his dad for), home is not terrible. He has wrestling,  his wonderful girlfriend Vanessa, and his little sister who he adores.  From the outside, everything seems great. On the inside however, Brendan is struggling. He is great at wrestling, but at the same time he is envious of the way girls wear their hair, and the bright purple and pink that they “strut across the yard”. He likes girls, but he wants to be a girl? Is he gay or just a freak?

Clark’s story in verse, intertwines 3 gripping narratives in one:  Brendan who is trying to understand his gender identity; Angel, Brendan’s new friend whose journey has been fraught with rejection and violence;  and Vanessa, Brendan’s worried, but loyal girlfriend.

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Text Structure: Novel in Verse
Lexile: HL700L

Themes: - Gender identity, gender fluidity/variation, discovery,  friendship and support, family, prejudice, love/acceptance, self-love, family, overcoming doubt, stereotypes and rejection, being your true self.

Rings of Culture Represented:

Ethnicity: whiteness/various
Socioeconomic: middle class/poor
Gender: transgender/genderfluid
Age: high school
National: USA
Religion: Christian/agnostic

Why it’s VABBulous -

  • Clark does a great job in writing a story about the complex and authentic identity of a trans teen struggling to understand who she is

  • The nuanced and complex struggles of transgender youth are explored from two perspectives.

    • Brandon as a middle class, “All American” teen, struggling with expectations of others, and stereotypes of masculinity/femininity

    • Angel as a poor trans girl of color facing rejection, violence, prejudice and how she overcomes these challenges to survive.

  • Clark contrasts  the worlds of Brandon and Angel subtly, exploring contrasting cultural rules such as nature of friendships, courtship practices, concept of self, problem solving roles in relation to age, rules of conduct, tolerance of pain to name a few.

Lesson Ideas

Set It Off (into the text)

  1. Anticipation/Reaction Guide  + Thinking On Your Feet

  • Give students the anticipation reaction guide as a handout, and use a Moment of Silence for them to complete. 
  • Use the same prompts to complete Thinking On Your Feet.

Possible prompts for Anticipation/Reaction & Thinking on Your Feet

  • Transgender and Gay are the same thing.
  • Being transgender is a choice.
  • Bathroom use should be limited to people’s birth sex only.
  • Transgenders and gay/lesbians have different concerns that need to be addressed.
  • Risk of poverty and suicide are higher for transgender individuals.
  • Fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color.


I gave this a 7-10 on Responsive Dots. What would you give it?

Lydia McClanahan