Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mary's YA Book Review Korner

Hey there! You may remember this voting option from my post a few posts back, and though I think only like one or two people voted for this, I think it's a good potential series for this blog. (It did receive more votes than Mary's Zombie Movie Review Korner, though, which was quite notably unpopular.) Potentially these reviews fall under the "not related to fashion" category except that this book totally relates to fashion.

Our selection today, generously lent to me by Gaby, is Freak Show by James St. James, one of the original "club kids" and author of Disco Bloodbath (best title ever!) that true/fictionalized account of the club kid, special K-fueled murder story that was turned into the movie Party Monster with Macauley Culkin. In case you never saw that, it's one of those movies where you're like, "I think this is the worst movie I've ever seen...or maybe that's what makes it great!" Actually, I think it was pretty bad, but everyone says that Macauley, despite appearing like a horrible actor, really portrays club kid/murderer Michael Alig very well. I kind of doubt this because I think Macauley cannot act, but I have a soft spot for him because he seems relatively artsy and non-pretentious, he was in Home Alone and he turned out to look like an Aubrey Beardsley-drawn doomed Victorian consumptive rent boy(uh, ignore Seth Green), and, for whatever reason, I find this very attractive.

Anyway, St. James kind of is really scary looking, and has had a lot of Botox and is partial to appearing on America's Next Top Model wearing a clown suit, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved this book. The story follows high school senior Billy Bloom, who moves away from his artsy friends in Conneticut to a conservative town in Florida, and becomes a victim of the wealthy football player and cheerleader hiearchy.

Billy is not really a drag queen- he refers to himself as, among other things, a "gender obscurist", spending his time in outrageous costumey, over-the top looks, from swamp monster to ultra-prep. What I found so inspiring- empowering, even, is that Billy Bloom expresses himself through fashion, but not in that trendy, designer-y way we are encouraged to, but creatively, inventively, and uniquely. His personal style becomes both a parallel to his horrible situation at his new school as well as his own artistic way of fighting back against the "Aberzombies." I too spent much of high school trying (with mixed results) to look as different from my classmates as everyone else, and cannot help but applaud this non-traditionally aggressive way to make yourself heard.

Freak Show is written in this ultra-chatty way with zillions of references and caps lock and exclamation points and a new paragraph every sentence, and at first I didn't think i would be able to make it through many pages of that, but I think the tone fit the book quite well. It's sort of like a lightweight teenaged fairy tale, but doesn't gloss over all the horrible abuse Billy suffers at the hands of his drone-like tormentors. Plus, a lot of the references are pretty funny. This story could easily be made into a wonderful film for teens, kind of like a Hedwig/Beautiful Thing hybrid, that I personally would enjoy watching. More importantly, I think this is one of those YA books with a genuinally positive and unique message, and think both boys and girls of varying genders would benefit from it.

Edited to Add: Photo of Macauley Culin and Seth Green. Sorry for the delays! I can only do these posts through HTML so it's really easy to screw up and then Blogger just made it disappear until I fixed it.

PPS: Is that Janeane Garafalo on those Weight Watchers ads? If it is, ohmygod.


Julia said...

i just realized that i never officially voted for what post topics i would like to see you write about! it goes without saying that i vote "yes" to all. who knew you had so much to say about zombie movies - i'm ready to hear all about it! and anything you have to say about "Island of the Blue Dolphin". because that shit just makes me cry.

M said...

i feel many people who, after being instructed to vote, did not! Like Gerard!

I'm glad you are voting for the zombie movie category as well. it needs support.

Simone said...

weight watchers ads? what?