Freeks by Amanda Hocking

Freeks by Amanda HockingFreeks by Amanda Hocking
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on January 3, 2017
Pages: 400
Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Amanda Hocking delivers an engrossing story about sideshow “freaks” in this novel set in the 1980s. Note: There are severely problematic elements with cultural elements in the book that influence my rating. A five-star read gets downgraded to three because of this.

Mara and her mother travel with Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, touring across the country entertaining people at the carnival. But Mara’s mother, Gideon, and other members of the sideshow aren’t ordinary “freaks.” When they arrive in Caudry, Louisiana, something feels off, especially when something starts attacking them at night. When Mara meets Gabe, a local boy with a secret, she falls quickly for him and learns that Caudry has some secrets that could put them all in danger.

While I really loved this book, I have to start this review on an extremely bad note. Hocking has some problematic language use in the book. Mara’s middle name, Varali, supposedly means “moon” in Hindi. I looked it up. It doesn’t. A native Hindi speaker on Goodreads says Varali means “moon” in Marathi (a language people in her family speak fluently). Marathi and Hindi are two different languages. The only reasonable explanation here is that the author said Hindi because it’s a language most people can recognize. This is no excuse though. You cannot generalize things like this. I’m really surprised the copy editor/editor didn’t catch it.  I am very disappointed here, so much so that I downgraded the book by two stars. You cannot create POC main characters and make mistakes like this and still expect kudos for diversity. At best, it’s misguided cultural appropriation. And that’s awful.

The cultural appropriation is too bad here because I enjoyed everything else about this book. I was totally engrossed in Mara’s story and felt connected to all of Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow. I also thought Mara and Gabe’s romance was exciting and just what I’d want to read when I was a teen. Though some might argue “insta-love,” I’d argue that they’re drawn to each other View Spoiler ».

The plot moved along quickly and the tension was palpable. Freeks would make a great spooky-ish read in October (not sure why they picked a January pub date here). The cover is gorgeous. Overall, this would have been a five-star read for me, but the sloppy handling of diversity kills it.

Verdict

Freeks by Amanda Hocking is a fantastic story with a huge problem. The story was good, but I’m disappointed by the cultural appropriation.

three-stars

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