Release Date: 09/04/12
Synopsis from goodreads.com:
When Jason Milwaukee's best friend Sunshine vanishes, Jason knows that something is terribly wrong, but solving her disappearance will require pushing through all the voices in his head and then getting the world to listen to him. His schizophrenia is stopping him from remembering the events leading up to her disappearance, and often he discounts his own memories, and his own impressions. But his deep knowledge that he would never hurt his friend, plus the faith of his parents and a few others in the town bring him to the point of solving the mystery. In the end, it's Sunshine's own love for Jason (Freak) that persuades him of his own strength and goodness. By turns brilliantly witty and searingly honest, Susan Vaught's newest novel is a laugh-out-loud, tear-jerking, coming-of-age story.
My thoughts on the book:
Freaks Like Us is a unique bildungsroman written from the first person POV of a schizophrenic boy named Jason. Vaught allows the reader a glimpse into a schizophrenic's mind as the medication slowly leaves his system. This look into schizophrenia is both heartbreaking and inspiring. It is heartbreaking because people have to live that way, but it is inspiring because there are people like Jason who can deal with this disease and actually function, to an extent, in society. The mysterious disappearance of Sunshine took a back seat, in my opinion, to Jason's battle for sanity. If nothing else, this novel shows that more work needs to be done in order to ease the symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
For someone who is trapped inside his own head, Jason is incredibly selfless. He doesn't feel sorry for himself. He simply deals with his disease and carries on. He does the best he can for himself, those around him, and most of all, for Sunshine. His feelings for her make him a much more endearing character. It is clear from his jumbled thoughts that he would do anything for Sunshine and is willing to risk his own life to ensure her safety.
The voices in Jason's head were heartbreaking. They taunted him and called him names. As the medication left his system (he refused to take more because it'd make him sleep, and he didn't want to sleep, he wanted to find Sunshine), he also began seeing horrifying images, such as bleeding walls and people's faces melting. Even reading this first person account, I still can't imagine what someone with schizophrenia goes through on a daily basis. Those people are so much stronger than anyone gives them credit for.
The mystery itself was pretty easy for me to figure out, but even though I knew what had been going on with Sunshine, I couldn't figure out where she went. I thought one thing had happened to her, and it was something else entirely. The fact that Jason was able to solve the mystery when no one else could is a statement to how intelligent and underestimated schizophrenic people really are. Vaught does a good job at making her case that mental illness does not equal a lack of intelligence, or a hopeless life However, she does not preach about it. The story illustrates her point wonderfully.
The writing style, of courses, is jumbled, and at times the story is hard to follow. This book is important and needs to be read, but it takes a certain reader to have the patience to make sense of what goes on in Jason's head. I feel like this novel could have offered more to the mental health community had it been an easier read.
Overall, I'd recommend this novel to anyone who wants to read something different. If you can make sense of Jason's thoughts, the story itself is beautiful, captivating, and heartbreaking. The treatment of people with mental illness is an important topic that needs to be addressed, and Vaught does a good job at opening a dialogue concerning this topic. I hope that more books dealing with mental illness will follow in this one's footsteps.
Pre-order Freaks Like Us today!