In The Freak Observer, by Blythe Woolston, Loa Lindgren is not your typical 16-year-old and yet she is a quintessential one. Her life is certainly not the ideal. In the past year her family has fallen apart, having lost the one thing that their lives revolved around: her little sister, Asta, named for the stars. Born with Rett’s syndrome, she stopped growing after a few months and was destined to remain infantile her entire life, until she suddenly died. Without the constant need to care for Asta, Loa and her family are like planets without a star to revolve around, cut loose to wander the universe. They are, of course, also stricken with grief, each one reacting in their own way. Her father has fits of violence. Loa wakes screaming from nightmares--just one terrifying symptom of a case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
With everything else that has gone on in Loa’s life recently, from a friend’s hit and run death to a strange relationship exposed on the Internet, she is dealing with more than her share of sorrow and shame. She also has an after-school job that deepens her exhaustion but is a vital part of their family’s pitiful income.
While most teens would crack under such tremendous pressure (she has also lost contact with most of her friends, who don’t know how to relate to her after such losses), Loa is extraordinarily different. Though suffering from sleep deprivation and sadness, she identifies her PTSD and is determined to battle it with her wits. She uses the practicality of physics to extricate herself from the horrors and delves deep into an extra-credit physics assignment: define the Boltzmann brain paradox. Yet while Loa is having such a difficult time with life in general, she is simultaneously trying to define herself. It is the age-old struggle of adolescents everywhere – who is she, apart from her family, friends, school, work . . . even her grief?
Loa is an incredible character – mature and yet naive, quirky and thoughtful - who will draw readers into the story. Teens who enjoy literature that doesn’t always spell things out or follow a formula will love the insightful writing and piecemeal arrangement of the plot. In chapters that begin with physics problems that often apply to the following narration, Loa’s story jumps between the past and present, slowly revealing the many facets of her life. As she slowly gains control over her grief and discovers who she is (for the moment, anyway), Loa finds connection with the Boltzmann brain – what she calls the freak observer – a self-aware being that randomly appears out of chaos.
Author Blythe Woolston’s debut novel truly deserves the prestigious William C. Morris YA Debut Award
, given by the American Library Association to honor a first-time author. The Freak Observer
is an unforgettable story for discerning readers who appreciate books apart from the pack.