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Freaks: Alive, on the Inside! (2006)
by Annette Curtis Klause
Tags: YA, Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, 13+
Pages: 331 (PBK)
Release Date/Publisher: July 2007, Simon-Pulse

I've been a fan of Klause since I first read Blood & Chocolate in the 6th grade. Her writing is simple but good and I can easily get lost in the worlds she creates. The subject matter of this book (circus oddities) is one that's not really been explored in young adult fiction or with such heart - usually, they're used in horror as they were used in real life in the early part of the century. I really enjoyed this book and the main character, Abel Dandy, who was born into this life from freaks but not a freak himself, is lovable through his bravery but naivety towards life.
Abel was born from a mother with no arms and a father with no legs but he is completely normal in every way. His parents decided to settle down from the traveling circus life when Abel was still a small child to a stationary circus home to many other oddities from dwarves to giants, fat ladies to Siamese twins who share a single pelvis. But the show isn't attracting a lot of business anymore and Abel is yearning for a little more adventure and a way to prove that he's not so normal after all. One day, he's given a ring by one of the twins who claims she was told to do so by a beautiful woman in her dreams. There's an instant connection between him and the ring as soon as he touches it and his dreams too become hunted by a mysterious, dancing Egyptian woman who talks to him in a language he shouldn't know... yet understands. Abel finds an opportunity to leave when a traveling circus sets up camp near his home. He makes his way and takes up a job as the drunk knife thrower's temporary assistant. Even here, though, he feels less that extraordinary and finds trouble when one of his friends from his circus home, Apollo the Dog Boy, is found at the new circus and they both get kicked out. As the story goes, they find more adventure and eventually the source of Abel's strange and sexy dreams. The story has a happy ending and a moral that all creatures are the same: alive, on the inside.
The only problems I found with this book is Klause uses the word loins noticeably a lot throughout the book through Abel's thoughts. Maybe he doesn't know another word to describe the sensations down under he feels because of his dreams but after about 10 times or so it was rather an eye-roll. Also, some of the characters went undeveloped and though there are some evil characters, you never really get their background and why they came to be so hateful. Klause really did great research though to make this as historically accurate as possible, and as she mentions in the "Author's Notes" at the end of the book, she used acts and people that really existed in the late 1800's to early 1900's for her characters in the book.
I'd recommend this book for anyone interested in this subject matter and era for it's wonderfully captured on it's pages as well as those interested in paranormal fantasy. Just don't let the word loins aggravate you too much. ;)

Resources: http://www.eve7k.com/klause/, http://www.simonsays.com/

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