Author: Amanda Hocking
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2017 (Jan 3)
Genre: YA Fantasy, YA Paranormal
**I received a copy of the book free from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
First of all, love this cover. Totally gets the vibe of the book. Then again, all Hocking’s books have amazing covers. I’m a big fan of hers. When I was asked to be part of the blog tour, I jumped at the chance. And I hadn’t even read the book yet.
I knew I would love it. I just knew.
Let me just dive into the premise so you can see how cool this book sounded to me…
So Mara travels around with her mom and her mom’s boyfriend Gideon during the spring of 1987 (I was four years old, btw, so I feel really old now). They are a group of carnival workers and “freaks.” However, the freaks in this show aren’t exactly just run of the mill people. When the money gets low, they load into the Winnebago and travel to Louisiana where a friend and old sideshow member suggest they can make some major money. And the one thing Mara and the other carnival workers need is money….even though once they enter the town, they can almost feel a creepy presence in the town.
Mara mainly just helps her friends and family as she has no gift. Her mother is a Necromancer and can speak to the dead. Gideon can see the future. One friend is a pyrokinetic whiz, and another can self-heal. They are perfect for Gideon’s Traveling Sideshow…but Mara has no gift.
While in the town, Mara meets Gabe, a sexy townie. And though their relationship cannot last, as she is only passing through, Mara and Gabe get closer than they should.
Then the attacks start.
A mysterious beast is attacking the carnival worriers. No one can get a good look at it, but the workers’ lives are in danger. However, they can’t leave because their contract stipulates they stay for so many days. And they are flat broke. So they do what they can and try to be wary. Mara is a little distracted by Gabe, who seems to have secrets of his own. One thing for sure: she doesn’t want Gabe to know she works for the carnival.
But as more people get hurt, the people of Gideon’s Traveling Sideshow start to wonder: what is going on in this small town in Louisiana? And why are the carnival workers a target?
Could Gabe be a part of the evil that lurks in this town?
Hocking’s books aren’t always PG (the Wake series has some steamy scenes and some swearing, but if you read the series you would understand why). But this one is totally clean. I can’t really see much use for this particular book in the classroom, but it would definitely make a good recommeended read for outside class reading. There is nothing offensive that I wouldn’t want my students to read. And just because there isn’t something that I can see, others might find a use for Freeks in the classroom: there is a theme of prejudice against anything “different.” And I loved the 80s references.
I will once again have to guess because Freeks isn’t listed on Lexile.com (they really need to include more in their book catalogue). I would recommend it for ages 13 and up, though I think mature 12 year olds could read it as well. There isn’t anything really too inappropriate beside one scene with innuendo about a sleepover…but it’s implied. So I’m comfortable saying 13 and up, but also it depends on a case-by-case basis for younger readers. I’m more cautious than others, so for some I might be a little conservative. If that’s the case, then I would recommend giving it a read first before handing it off to anyone younger than 13.
I liked Freeks a lot. I wish it was a series. I wouldn’t mind learning more about the freak show and the people in it. Alas, it is a standalone, so I give it ★★★★☆. Which mean…
Oh…but I’m not done yet! How about some Q & A with AMANDA HOCKING HERSELF???
AMANDA HOCKING Q&A
1. Your characters are sent into the Hunger Games. Who wins?
If it’s just the characters from FREEKS, and only one could win, I would put my money on Luka or maybe Roxie. Luka because he can heal from injuries, which gives him a crazy advantage, but Roxie is smart and she’s a survivor. Plus, she has the power of pyrokinesis, which I think I would come in handy in a battle to the death.
2. What do you listen to while you write? Or do you prefer silence?
I almost always listen to music when I write, unless I’m writing a really difficult scene. Sometimes the silence helps me focus, but most of the time, I prefer music. For FREEKS, I got to make a really fun 80s playlist, so I especially enjoyed working to that.
3. What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve looked up in the name of research – or what do you think the government has maybe flagged you for?
There are sooo many things. For FREEKS, I had to do fun stuff like, “What does a dead body smell like?” and “How much blood can a human lose?” And then after those macabre questions, I did a bunch of googling on fireflies and tarot cards. My search history when I’m working can be pretty exciting like that.
4. What was your favorite part of writing FREEKS?
I love Southern Gothics and I love pulpy 80s horror movies, so I was excited to be able incorporate those things in FREEKS. But my favorite part was actually Mara and Gabe. I think they complement each other well, and it was fun writing their banter and flirtations.
5. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from FREEKS?
For Mara, I envisioned Cassie Steele from the start. I used to be a hardcore Degrassi fan, and I loved Cassie Steele on that. For Gabe, I like Ryan Guzman. I saw him in a Jennifer Lopez movie, and I was like, “Yep. That could be Gabe.”
6. Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I usually write between 11 am and 7 pm. I’ve tried to write earlier in the day and have more of a 8-5 type schedule, but I am not a morning person. My brain just doesn’t want to work much before noon.
7. Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
I usually have a goal in mind before I start writing, but it varies. Some days, it’s slow going and I hope to get at least 500 words out. Other days, I fly through with thousands of words. So it depends on where I’m at in the book, when it’s due, and how I’m feeling about the whole thing.
8. When you develop your characters, do you already have an idea of who they are before you write or do you let them develop as you go?
With all my main characters, I have a really good idea of who they are, and it’s just a matter of showing that to the readers. With the side characters, they tend to be rather one-dimensional, and they grow into the story as they’re needed.
9. How did writing Freeks differ from your writing your previous novels?
FREEKS was the first thing I had written in awhile that was started out just for me. For most of the past ten years, I have been writing my books with the intention of publishing them, with the audience and readers and trends in mind. I think I had gotten a little burnt out on trying to make everyone happy (mostly because it is impossible to please all readers all the time), and I just wanted to write something that for the sake of writing it.
And that turned out to be a gothic love story about a teenage girl travelling with a band of misfits in the 1980s. It was a very cathartic writing experience for me, and it reminded me of exactly why I loved writing in the first place – I love getting lost in the world, with the characters.
10. If Freeks had a theme song what would it be?
Either “Hush” by Limousines or “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears.
11. Can you please tell us a little bit about Freeks and where you got the inspiration to write it?
I was going through a rough patch, creatively speaking, and so I just sat back and tried to think of my favorite and what I loved most that I would want to write about.
When I was a kid, I used to get old books at garage sales all the time, and I distinctly remember getting Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King and a few old V. C. Andrews novels, (I LOVE THESE!! – Steph) which are pulpy Southern Gothic-esque novels. I also watched The Lost Boys and Pretty in Pink over and over again (I think I literally ruined the old VHS of The Lost Boys from watching it too much).
So I basically threw all those things together in a soup, and I picked apart the things I liked and wanted to explore more. That became a travelling sideshow in the 80s stopping Louisiana, where a supernatural monster is afoot, and a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who is smith with a local boy with secrets of his own.
12. Freeks is full of many amazingly talented characters and I imagine it was really fun to create some of them, but which one was your favorite and why?
Mara and Gabe are my obvious favorites, since they’re the main characters because I was drawn to them and their story the most. Both of them of them have complex feelings about family and personal identity, and their instant chemistry was fun to write.
But I think Gideon – the namesake and head of sideshow – was actually the biggest surprise, which made him fun in a different way. In the original outlines of the story, he was much a different character – very one-note and cruel – but he completely changed and evolved as I was writing.
13. The book is based off of a type of traveling circus that is full of many mysterious acts. If you were to attend a Freekshow, which act would you want to see most?
My favorites are usually the acrobatics, but I think if I attended Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, I would be most excited to see Gideon’s magic act. With his skills and knowledge, I think it would be a really amazing show.
14. What do you hope readers will take away from FREEKS after reading it?
With some of my other novels, I deal with heavy themes like life and death, identity, honor, mortality, classism, and family. And while I do definitely touch on those themes in FREEKS, I mostly wrote it as an escape for myself, and that’s what I hope it is for other readers. Life can be hard and frustrating, and I just wanted to write a fun book that readers could get lost in for awhile.
15. What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Probably how chronically shy I am. Writing is a weird profession, because a good 90% of it is perfect for introverts – you sit alone by yourself and make up imaginary friends to go on adventures. But the last 10% – which involves introducing the whole word to your imaginary friends – is the most exciting and rewarding part, but it’s also the most difficult when you’re as shy as I am.
So that’s it, guys! Hope you enjoyed reading my review and learning a little about Amanda Hocking and Freeks!
Seriously…check it out.
I leave you with the awesome Pan Macmillan cover, that I think is beautiful in its own way: