Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught

It's not very often that you find a book with a devastating disorder like schizophrenia. Even less common is when the story does not revolve around the disorder.

Jason is a high school student who suffers from schizophrenia. He and his two close friends, Derrick with ADHD and Sunshine with selective mutism, have bonded since the first grade over their shared ostracism and image as freaks and have formed their own supportive family.

When Sunshine goes missing, however, Jason is the prime suspect in her disappearance. As Jason strives to solve the mystery of his missing best friend, everyone suspects that Jason had something to do with it, including Jason himself. Due to the confusion and distraction of all the voices in his head, Jason cannot be sure that he is innocent, so he needs to find out if there are memories that his mind is not letting him remember. This story is one of friendship and loyalty, as well as one of bravery and overcoming personal limitations.

As a practicing psychologist, Susan Vaught is very familiar with the struggles of schizophrenic patients and seeing the face of the person beyond the disorder.  Jason's disorder plays a constant role in his narration throughout the story. When his mind is jumbled and reality is crashing down on him, the sentences run into each other and the stream-of-consciousness narration becomes chaotic.  Despite having a disorder that many may classify as "crazy," Jason is persistently likable and witty, a character who is more than his mental illness.  He Vaught's portrayal of Jason and his struggles is very genuine and realistic while making his issues understandable to an uninformed reader.

This book is a quick read in that you can get sucked into it and finish it in one sitting if you have the time.  That does not mean that it is a particularly light read - this is not a happy book. The mystery is interesting and exciting, however. This book could shed some light on the lives of teens with mental illness as it shows them going to school and functioning with everyone else.  If you are interested, this novel is worth your time.

1 comment:

Paustian Hjeck said...

Did the narrator provide a lot of information about schizophrenia or did the way in which Jason moved about within the story lay out enough information? I'm just curious because I have read a lot of books where characters have some sort of mental deviation from the norm and often times the narrator is too revealing and does not allow the character to show the reader what they are actually experiencing.