Friday, July 19, 2013

REVIEW: Freakling by Lana Krumwiede

Freakling Freakling by Lana Krumwiede
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This dystopian Middle Grade book would have been an easy 3-stars were it not for a few big things.

+ the weak hero

I did not like Taemon. I could tolerate his lack of self-confidence, but his refusal to listen to his common sense pushed my limit. When you live in a society where psychic power is everything and you lose your own, common sense dictates that you should avoid everything that would pull attention to you. That means no participating in sport events where psychic power is the way you play the sport, especially when nobody forced you to participate, and no going to school where you’re being tested on the active use of your psychic power, especially when you could have easily been homeschooled. Where was the parenting?

The biggest thing of all, no doing anything your evil older brother says or going anywhere alone with him, especially when you can detect his evil intent from a mile and a galaxy away. Taemon wasn’t stupid; he was astute. But he made so many bad decisions that I found it hard to believe the kid was still alive by the end of Part 1 of the book. The kid was lucky that the villains were not more wicked.

However, what really grated on my nerves was his Guilt Complex. Not only was it annoying, it presented the character as a Jesus type of hero. Dafuq? I knew from the blurb that Taemon was going to be the Chosen One, but not in a Jesus-y way. Fortunately, this crap arose only intermittently. Any more frequently and I would have wanted to gouge someone’s eyes out.

+ the anti-intellectualism bent

The idea that knowledge was dangerous and thus should be kept secret because of the great possibility humanity would use it for evil (see chapter 14) was unchallenged, and I didn’t like it. Nevermind the equally great possibility that humanity could use the knowledge for the greater good because cynicism, which made little sense given how easy the villagers confessed the secret to Taemon, an outsider. Readers know Taemon is a good person (Jesus!) but from the villagers’ POV he could have been a spy for all they know, considering when they were made aware of his sibling status to one of the villains.

I hated how the good guys were incompetent in their handling of the “forbidden knowledge.” They ended up costing a lot of savable lives. The book was yet another dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction with an anti-intellectualism bent. And the fact that the setting was in a religious context, I did not care to explore what the bent could mean and go farther on the path of critical thinking because I was sure it would make me more annoyed and mad. Admittedly, there’s a chance that subversive goals are at work but I seriously doubt it.

+ the forgettable characters

Characters were flat and forgettable, especially during Part 2 when the cast expanded to include non-psychic villagers who among them I only remembered a spunky girl. I remembered Amma because she had traits of a kickass heroine and more right to be the main character than Taemon did. Other than her, I did not remember any other character introduced after Part 1. The characters I did remember, I had nothing but complaints.

Taemon’s family were halfway to being window dressing to the point that the author should have just went ahead and made Taemon a complete cliché by making him an orphan with a mysterious past. The book dismissed his mother and father after Part 1, never to be heard from again, and became another case of the Disappearing Parent Syndrome.

As for Taemon’s brother, the dude was outright evil: power-hungry, narcissistic, and jealous. There was little explanation for why Yens became evil other than bad parenting (read: no parenting) and Uncle Fierre who spoiled him. Okay, so maybe that is all the explanation needed but the character felt like he was just born evil rather than a case of bad nurturing in the sense that someone needed to be evil aside from the evil mastermind. In sum, what little can be called family dynamics were so awkwardly done that, to reiterate, the book would have better off making Taemon an orphan with a mysterious past.

I did appreciate that Taemon was given a break in the form of a best friend, Moke. For all the characterization of Taemon as a special snowflake, less than average Moke was more interesting. If Amma had first place in having the most rights to be the main character, Moke had second place, which is why it really sucked what happened to him at the end. So much for that break.

As for the main villain, Elder Naseph was your typical corrupted priest who wanted the world as his oyster because being high priest is not enough. All the characters were either good or evil. Character development was the book’s weakest point.

In Conclusion

I rate Freakling 2-stars for it was okay. A thing I did like was like the religion and how it was based on nature with Mother Nature as the divine power, the True Son as her Jesus, and how psychic power was the privilege bestowed on her chosen people. However, I wish more creative liberties were taken because the religion felt like a clone of Christianity.

In regard to the plot, Part 1 was too long which made for a slow beginning, and frustrating because of the hero. Part 2 was meh, and with no sign of character growth on the hero I skimmed. Part 3 was where good action happened but I ceased to care back in Part 2. Overall, in another writer’s hand, the book could have been way better.

Goodreads | Amazon

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