The Freak Observer

The Freak Observer

By: Blythe Woolston
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: August 2010
ISBN: 978-0761362128
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2010

All Loa got for her troubles was a smack upside the head with a toilet plunger. No “I’m soooo glad you are safe.” No “I love you,” just a dirty old plunger. “Same-ol, same-ol” in the Lindgren family. Her friend, Esther, had been splattered across the road by a truck. She could picture her running down the embankment and then . . . the driver was out in the road yelling and puking. The trooper had tried to console her in his own funny way by saying that some people ran toward an accident while others ran away. So what kind of person just froze in place and time? Her only consolation prize was that plunger and her father saying, “You could’a been the dead one.” It wouldn’t be very long before Loa probably wished she was.

Mrs. Bishop, the guidance counselor at school, wasn’t much help and everyone else thought of her as “that dead girl’s friend” and that simply wasn’t cool. Loa had a “glitch in [her] brain” and in her dreams she saw Esther’s heart in the laundry basket. She didn’t want to sleep because she’d see that heart. Cleaning all night solved that, but she couldn’t stay awake forever. They used to call it “shellshock,” but now it’s called PTSD. They gave Loa six weeks of “grief counseling” because of her screaming at night and nightmares that brought everything back. At the end of her counseling she was supposed to be all cured, but she knew that Esther couldn’t “be alive and dead at the same time like Schrödinger’s imaginary cat.” Esther was dead and that was that.

It used to be that everyone had their own little orbit around her younger sister, Asta. Now “there were pages missing from Asta’s book” and everyone had to tend to her because she never walked, talked, and had to wear diapers. Even Little Harold’s life evolved around her until “The Bony Guy” came to get her. Loa knew she had problems and knew that “At least 25 percent of trauma victims have repetitive dreams of the event with feelings of intense rage, fear, or grief,” but when the heck was she going to recover from this funk? Was anyone ever going to look at her instead of seeing a dead girl in her eyes? Was the best she was going to get was a toilet plunger up the side of her head?

This is an amazingly funny, yet tragic story about Loa Lindgren, a girl who is suffering from PTSD. Loa is so into her own mind that her intellect isn’t quite holding hands with reality. The story emanates from the inner reaches of her mind. We not only learn about her fears, but also in this tragicomedy we are treated to Loa’s remarkable sense of humor. For example, when someone tells her to take care she claims she won’t be responsible for her actions if she hears it again because she knows how to take care. “I can wash dishes, pull out slivers, sharpen a chainsaw, thaw out frozen pipes, pack a lunch, mop floors, serve five hot plates to a table, get poop out of a little boy’s underwear, and sterilize a nasogastric tube.” I haven’t read such a good YA novel in some time and had a hard time putting it down. If you want to read a stunning, well written tragicomedy, this is definitely the book to pick up!

Quill says: This debut novel by Blythe Woolston will simply wow the reader with the ingenious look at the mind of a teenage girl in the throes of PTSD!

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