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Friday, November 23, 2012

Freakling (Freakling #1) by Lana Krumwiede

A thrilling, fast-paced dystopian novel about the dangers of unchecked power and the dilemmas facing a boy torn between two ways of life.

In twelve-year-old Taemon’s city, everyone has a power called psi—the ability to move and manipulate objects with their minds. When Taemon loses his psi in a traumatic accident, he must hide his lack of power by any means possible. But a humiliating incident at a sports tournament exposes his disability, and Taemon is exiled to the powerless colony.

The "dud farm" is not what Taemon expected, though: people are kind and open, and they actually seem to enjoy using their hands to work and play and even comfort their children. Taemon adjusts to his new life quickly, making friends and finding unconditional acceptance.

But gradually he discovers that for all its openness, there are mysteries at the colony, too—dangerous secrets that would give unchecked power to psi wielders if discovered.

When Taemon unwittingly leaks one of these secrets, will he have the courage to repair the damage—even if it means returning to the city and facing the very people who exiled him?

Released: October 9th 2012          Pages:320
Publisher: Candlewick Press       Source: Won an ARC through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway

First Look: ***** This looked pretty interesting.  I actually had a similar idea revolving in my head for quite awhile (though it's now been put indefinitely on the back burner).  Ultimately, the execution of this book was very different from my idea, which is perfectly alright with me.  Also, it's kinda refreshing to read middle grade every so often--it gives me a break from angsty romance and love triangles everywhere.

Setting: *****
I love, more than anything, the fact that this setting made me think quite a bit about something I'd never thought of before.  These people had spent their entire lives doing thing with psi, with everything from eating to doing work to playing sports.  (Using "psi" is basically doing things with mental powers, like telekinesis.)  I had never before considered how much our daily lives revolve around doing things, physical things.  I'm pressing down on my keyboard right now.  Earlier I picked up my food with a fork in order to eat it.  I put my contact lens on my finger and put it into my eye (yep, I'm a contact-wearing person now).  We physically do things, all day, every day.  So what if you, say, didn't have to touch your phone in order to press the buttons?  What if you could control everything internally?  And then, what happens when you lose that power, in a world that doesn't know how to live without it? 

This aspect was fascinating.  Had this book been longer, I'm sure Krumwiede would have delved into this even more, but she still did a great job exploring this idea. 

Characters: ***** I liked Taemon.   He reacted realistically to the events of the story, and had plenty likable traits.  He was smart and determined.  There wasn't anything that made him stand out from the crowd, but he was still a fairly solid lead.

Some of the side characters--especially kids other than Taemon--were flat.  I could find no distinguishing traits about them.  Except for Moke, though.  I liked him.  Something's up with that kid--I want to know more!  And Yens had some really weird and interesting stuff going on.  I'm skeptical that any sixteen-year-old would actually want to kill their brother, but...okay.  At least he didn't stray into I'm-evil-because-I'm-evil mode.

Plot: *****
It was interesting, went too fast, for me.  Some of this probably came from the fact that it was a MG book, but still (or maybe that's just me, because when I was twelve I was reading 500-page monsters).  There were some things that could have been expanded on, giving the plot more depth. 

I'm also a bit skeptical on some of the plot elements.  As in, would that society turn completely from a good place to a not-so-good place that fast?  I'm not sure I believe it.   Can a twelve-year-old outsmart a prison system put in place by trained adults?  Not sure I believe that, either.

Uniqueness: *****
This book mixes familiar dystopian aspects with fresh, different ones.

Writing: *****
There were some typos, but my copy is an ARC, so that's to be expected.  Unless they weren't corrected when the book went to actual printing.  But I'll assume they were.

Otherwise, the writing did a good job telling the story.  I don't have anything more to say about it.

Likes: Nothing not already mentioned above.

Not-so-great: First thing: There are some weird biblical references here.  I'm not sure whether this is a good or bad thing.  I can't decide if some of these references are unintentional, of if they were meant to be there.  First, there's the thing about the True Son, which is an obvious Christ-figure reference, not to mention a very interesting word choice.  The "True Son" (okay, the kid who they thought was the True Son) tore down the temple.  Um....
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." (John 2:19)
And now I'm left wondering if the actual True Son is going to build it up again.  Also, there's some stuff about a prophet leading people to a new land, etc. 
Second thing: In the powerless colony, there is a family that safeguards a secret library.  In this library, there is a book titled Understanding the Atom.  The parents of the family make a comment that goes something like this (this is by no means an exact quote, but it's the general message): "If you knew what an atom was, and how to use it, you could destroy the world.  That is why we must keep this knowledge secret."  This is obviously referring to the atomic bomb, and how a person could potentially use this power to destory the world.  I'm not going to sit here debating the ethics of dropping bombs on Japan during WWII, but in short, I believe it was necessary.  There are 11-17 million reasons for this.  (And no, I'm not just tossing out numbers.)  Also, the idea of hiding knowledge has never sat well with me.
*spoilers in this paragraph only* Third thing: I don't really agree with the choice Taemon made at the end, to get rid of everyone's psi.  Yes, psi could be and was abused.  But the majority of people used it for good.  Taemon, who lives without psi anyway, has no right to make everyone's choice for that.  I don't think he had any right to do this, even if it was "for the greater good".  This doesn't sit well with me, either. 
Overall: This is an interesting dystopian read with a likable main character.  It presents some really cool and fairly well-executed concepts.  I love the idea of psi and the culture that goes with it.  This is a middle grade book, so it's aimed at 10-14 year olds, but then again, I'm sixteen and enjoyed it.  The only thing that gives me pause is the subtext.  There's some serious stuff going on beneath the surface of this book, and some of it doesn't sit well with me.  Taemon's story is just the tip of the iceberg, here.   I feel like younger readers won't see the subtext, but I did.  It'll be interesting to see where the series goes.   

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