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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant insight into schizophrenia for young adults
Some years ago I had the idea of writing young adult stories that would introduce the readers to the concepts of various mental illnesses and experiences of those who suffer from them. Clinical Psychologist Susan Vaught has beaten me to it and done a far better job than I ever would have done. The protagonist of the story, Freak, is a boy in his late teens who suffers...
Published 16 months ago by Mr. T. Berriman

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost very good
When I started to read this I thought the narrative voice, a character with schizophrenia, was excellent. The story was intentionally difficult to follow with all of the interruptions, the lack of punctuation making the interruptions even more intrusive. I began to feel empathy for the narrator, began imagining what it must be like to live in a world like this...
Published 12 months ago by Buglebead


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant insight into schizophrenia for young adults, 3 April 2013
By 
Mr. T. Berriman "berriman_toby" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Freaks Like Us (Paperback)
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Some years ago I had the idea of writing young adult stories that would introduce the readers to the concepts of various mental illnesses and experiences of those who suffer from them. Clinical Psychologist Susan Vaught has beaten me to it and done a far better job than I ever would have done. The protagonist of the story, Freak, is a boy in his late teens who suffers from schizophrenia. Alongside him are his two best friends Drip, who has ADHD, and Sunshine, who is selectively mute.

At just 240 pages of easy reading Freaks Like Us can be got through quickly. Add in the brilliantly crafted story that keeps you guessing and keeps hinting at things, and you can see how I read this book cover to cover in one sitting! There were times when I was on the edge of my seat in hopeful anticipation, times when I flinched, and times I may have shed a tear or two.

I felt that I could really see inside the mind of someone with schizophrenia, and from my own experience living for 12 years with someone with this illness I can say it seems to be an accurate description. Also accurate was the way the Alphabets (those with various disorder, so called because of the abbreviations of the disorder names) are treated by the Normals; ignored, disregarded, and generally treated as second rate citizens.

But the novel doesn't survive on the mental health aspect alone, and would have still been a decent novel had this element been taken out. All in all an excellent story that pulled me in, took me for an emotional ride, and left me satisfied but hungry for more. I will definitely be checking out this author's other work!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is Jason a freak? Absolutely NOT!, 27 Mar 2013
By 
JK "Julie K." (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Freaks Like Us (Paperback)
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The best thing about Freaks Like Us is how realistic Jason is as a character. No matter what he does, or what he goes through, I couldn't help but like him. Jason struggles with life and yet he comes through and his observations are more than capable of making you laugh and cry at the same time. Obviously Jason is suffering because of his mental health but; Susan Vaught presents him as a normal boy 'with a difference' and not a handicap. One of the highlights of the novel is the relationship between Jason, Drip and Sunshine. They have real friendship and their level of care for one another adds a lot of warmth to the plot. However; it's that relationship which is severly tested when 'the bad thing' happens (no telling you what it is - read the book) and it's so emotional and sad.

Jason is schizophrenic, Expect him to perceive the world in a different way. He does take medication, hear voices and he's in a different educational system to most of the other kids. Where this book is clever is the way in which Jason tells you all about it in the voice of a normal kid who has an illness. He accepts his illness but; he'll challenge the way in which you perceive people with mental health issues and question your attitude towards them.

Is Jason a Freak? Absolutely not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tense teen thriller, 10 Mar 2013
By 
Steve Benner "Stonegnome" (Lancaster, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Freaks Like Us (Paperback)
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Susan Vaught's latest novel, "Freaks Like Us", is a powerful and poignant thriller pitched at young adults and above. The book's central characters are a group of late teenagers, all suffering from various mental illnesses and disorders, with the first-person protagonist, Jason, suffering from severe general anxiety disorder and schizophrenia. As a consequence, he has great difficulty sifting reality from fantasy in his head; when his particularly close school-friend, Sunshine Patton, mysteriously fails to arrive home from school one evening, he rapidly finds himself spirally into confusion and chaos, drawn ever more deeply into the hunt for her. Against a background of escalating urgency, which feeds his own fears and paranoias, he suddenly finds himself the chief suspect in the eyes of both the FBI and the mother of the missing girl. As the hours tick by, Jason's panic that Sunshine is lost to him forever mounts, together with his own suspicions that he himself may indeed be to blame somehow, particularly knowing as he does that there is something that his mind as well as Sunshine herself commanded him to forget. He becomes ever more desperate and despairing. And as he grows more tired -- refusing to sleep, when he could be helping with the search -- or to take his meds -- which impair his ability to think, even as they keep him from completely falling apart, he begins to behave ever less rationally and oddly, increasing the suspicions against him. For Jason, solving the mystery of what has happened to Sunshine becomes an ever more important -- and personal -- matter.

The story is written with a wry mix of humour, grit and pathos. With consummate honesty, the author, through the words of her protagonist, builds an increasingly poignant and utterly engaging tale. Readers of all ages should be able to identify and sympathise with Jason's plight. As the situation spirals out of his control and things begin to look increasingly bleak, not only for Sunshine but also for Jason, the tension -- and the brutality of events -- mounts to an almost unbearable pitch as the story soars to its climax and conclusion. A gripping read almost from the outset, the book becomes increasingly difficult to put down. Stunningly well-written, thrilling and convincing every inch of the way, "Freaks Like Us" is also brilliantly clever, with a wonderfully arranged ending, that is as uplifting as it is tear-jerking. It would make for a great screenplay adaptation -- the scenes already flow graphically from the page -- and is highly recommended as a marvellous read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read, 1 Jan 2013
This review is from: Freaks Like Us (Kindle Edition)
I brought this book in the 12 days of kindle sale as a bit of a curio, Ive personal experience of caring for those with mental illness/disability and thought the free chapter sounded intresting (always a great idea to gauge how likely you are to like the book).
I read in in under 2 hours.
It keeps you gripped and interested and guessing.

There are many sections where you just want to cry or scream and shout with pure frustraition at the way the young people are being treated and also at how sscary and confusing th world can be.
Buy this book. It is an eye opener.
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5.0 out of 5 stars From the point of view of a Teen with a neurological condition, 14 Mar 2014
By 
JoMaynard (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Freaks Like Us (Paperback)
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Jason, or Freak as he likes to be called, is a pretty normal teen. Well except from his Schizophrenia and being relegated to Special Education with the other "alphabets"; that is kids diagnosed with various issues usually designated by letters of the alphabet.

Jason has two good friends, Drip who has ADHD and Sunshine who is an elective mute. Whoever you are I think you will quickly identify with these three teenagers. The frustrations of not being listened to when you try to say something. The assumptions that people jump to.

It all gets worse when one day after school Sunshine disappears. Where is she? Has something bad happened to her? Did Jason have anything to do with it?

The FBI get called in pretty quickly. How will Jason cope with their investigation? Especially as he chooses not to take his meds to help him think more clearly; although this has side effects.

It is a very gripping book. Certainly suitable for teenagers and young adults (and adults like me). It is full of twists and turns. Who can we believe? Who can we trust? What has happened to Sunshine?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thriller with compassion, 11 Nov 2013
By 
C. O'Brien (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Freaks Like Us (Paperback)
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Like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, which dealt with Asperger's, this story is narrated by a boy with a problem. 17-year-old Jason has a condition which makes him one of the 'alphabets' - kids with mental health problems and learning difficulties, like ADHD and SED and GAD. Jason is SCZI - schizophrenic - and his condition is held at bay, just about, by his medication - or 'fuzzy pills' as he calls them. Without them, the voices in his head get the upper hand, people's faces start to melt and blood oozes from the walls.

Jason is a thoroughly decent boy, despite his terrifying inner landscape, and one of the greatest achievements of this book is that it makes it clear that people with 'alphabets' - even scary ones - are not necessarily insane, or dangerous to others. But when Jason's girlfriend Sunshine disappears under mysterious circumstances and the FBI are called in, suspicion inevitably falls on him, and he must battle both his own inner demons and their all-too-real counterparts in the outsisde world before he can discover the truth.

Written by a practising psychologist Susan Vaught, this is a sensitively written study of a mind under siege as well as a remarkably taut and exciting thriller. Recommended for readers of all ages, teens and upwards.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amusing, Captivating and Enlightening, 18 Aug 2013
By 
H. Taylor "Kahuna" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Freaks Like Us (Kindle Edition)
I loved this book. Such a great storyline.

'Freak' as he prefers to be called, is a teenager with schizophrenia. He goes to school and is in a class with various other 'alphabets' - these are people with disorders like himself who, as they point out, are defined by their mental disorders (ADHD, Bi-Polar etc etc).

Freak, Drip and Sunshine are three best friends with the usual teenage issues on top of their own mental disorders.

Sunshine, however, goes missing. Due to her disorder she is classed as a high risk vulnerable missing person. Police and even the FBI are called in to find her.

Freak and Drip are the last two people to have seen Sunshine and the only two people who might know how to find her, but will they manage to focus for long enough and put their disorders on the sidelines in order to find their beloved friend?

I found this to be a very captivating book with some pretty funny moments throughout - the humour is great amongst the worry of trying to find Sunshine.

I did not see the end coming either which is always a good thing! Not predictable at all!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Almost very good, 13 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Freaks Like Us (Paperback)
When I started to read this I thought the narrative voice, a character with schizophrenia, was excellent. The story was intentionally difficult to follow with all of the interruptions, the lack of punctuation making the interruptions even more intrusive. I began to feel empathy for the narrator, began imagining what it must be like to live in a world like this. However, the plot is too thin to sustain the reader's interest, and the other characters do not really have chance to develop. This book suffers in comparison to Mark Haddon's 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime'.
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4.0 out of 5 stars `There's no running away from what's in your own head.', 8 Aug 2013
By 
L. H. Healy "Books are life, beauty and truth." (Cambridgeshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Freaks Like Us (Paperback)
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This is the story of three friends, one of whom, seventeen-year-old Jason Milwaukee, is the first person narrator. Sunshine goes missing and the mystery of the story is in trying to resolve where she is and why she has disappeared, with Jason struggling to remember what she had said to him before she disappeared, her voice fighting with the other, overpowering voices in his head.

Jason, who is telling the story here, is SCZI - schizophrenic. Sunshine is SM - selectively mute, and Drip (Derrick) has ADHD. Collectively they, and others like them who suffer mental illnesses tagged by such initials, refer to themselves as `alphabets'. As Jason's father explains to FBI Agent Mercer, `"It's a word Jason and Sunshine and Derrick use to describe themselves as a group. It feels better to them than any of the disorder-disability talk."'

Jason often refers to his mother and father by their professional ranks of the colonel and the captain. His parents divorced when he was twelve and when we meet him he is living with his father. Jason is also referred to as "Freak" and tells Agent Mercer frankly: "Everybody calls me that. You can."

The tension builds in the story as the hours go by since Sunshine has been gone. Susan Vaught's writing feels compassionate and honest in dealing with mental health in teenagers, how it feels to them to be different, to be classed as SED - Severely Emotionally Disturbed. The author is a practicing psychologist. She conveys the intensity of the struggle to deal with his affliction throughout every waking moment, through Jason's hurried speech and transcribing the talk he hears from all of the different, competing voices in his head - the style of writing reflects the chaos of Jason's mind and thoughts and the voices. Some of the thoughts they tell him are very negative and cruel: `He knows it's your fault. He knows you're an idiot. Fool on the hill. Fool on the hill. He's got cold eyes. Why does he have cold eyes? He's probably a serial killer.'

The author is careful to make it clear that he is not his illness; at one point he is talking and realizes these aren't his thoughts but the thoughts of the voices he hears;

`I hate it when I sound like my alphabet voices.
I hate it when I smear together like a wet photograph and get all sticky and can't tell the crazy voices from my own voice and what I'm seeing now from what I saw before and what I want to see now and what I wanted to see before and -`

His frustration at his real thoughts being clouded and hidden sometimes by everything else that is going on in his mind is difficult for him to bear.

I found this an unsettling and difficult read at times; some of the images Jason sees are a bit disturbing and the constant reminders of the cruel and confused voices littered throughout the text make for an uneasy read. But this is the author's point; this is conveying the illness and the realities of what Jason endures. I'm glad the author attempted to portray this as it is. Anyone who has suffered or had experience of a mental illness will likely feel a resonance with this story, as will many compassionate readers who haven't.

Throughout the story I found myself liking Jason and admiring him for who he is. I felt very sad and frustrated for him at times, when he was being bullied, or misunderstood by those who don't know him, or when his unusual behaviour attracts unjustified suspicions that he might be guilty. Most sad of all was when he couldn't reach inside his mind and find the memories and thoughts that he really needed, the clues that would help him understand about Sunshine, because the voices keep getting in the way, causing confusion. His deep affection and respect for Sunshine is evident throughout. I was so glad the three of them - Jason, Sunshine and Drip - had had each other's friendship and understanding. It's very clear that, as Jason observes, 'Some days life makes more sense than other days.'

The shift in the relationship between FBI Agent Mercer and Jason as the story progresses was very nicely done I thought. As he emerges with new understanding and consideration for Jason, so too does the reader.

A poignant, honest and distinctive young adult mystery novel with with frank insights into mental health.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping story with unusual premise, 14 July 2013
By 
Fiona Millar "cookiemum" (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Freaks Like Us (Paperback)
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'Freaks Like Us' is a teen thriller, but with a very different slant, told in first person narrative by Jason, a teenager with mental health issues and best friend of Sunshine, who goes missing one day. Jason knows he'd never hurt Sunshine, but he also knows he's not telling the whole truth to the police and his family. The tension is cranked up to full right the way through the book, as Jason copes with those around him suspecting he is responsible, and his own private fears that he is somehow to blame for Sunshine's disappearance.

The main characters are very well drawn, believable and likeable, and it's impossible not to sympathise with Jason as he fights all of his personal demons to save his friend. This is a book you won't want to put down until you've found out what did happen to Sunshine, and whether Jason will get his happy ending.
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Freaks Like Us
Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught (Paperback - 18 Feb 2014)
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