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Get Your Freak Flag Out Of My Magnetic Field

A review of Freak Magnet by Andrew Auseon, wherein Posh declares her eternal love for Charlie Wyatt.

Get Your Freak Flag Out Of My Magnetic Field

BOOK REPORT for Freak Magnet by Andrew Auseon

BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Straight Up She & Him
Bonus Factors: Diversity, Drug Store, Dinosaurs Vs Robots
Relationship Status: Marriage Pact

The Deal:

Back when I was a DJ in college, one of my favorite bands to play on the air was Tuscadero, an indie rock group from DC. I loved all of their songs, but I consistently overplayed one track in particular that really spoke to me and, I'm sure, all girls everywhere. It's called "Freak Magnet," and you can listen to it here.

I tell you all of this because A) I enjoy any excuse to mention my radio days cos it makes me feel cool, B) I have the sneaking suspicion that Gloria Aboud, the main female character in Andrew Auseon's book, considers this song to be her personal mantra. Maybe it's her misanthropic attitude, or the fact that she dresses goth, but for some reason, wherever Gloria goes, she really brings out the crazies. We're talking, DROVES of the cray cray. The only way she can deal with her magnetic abilities is by recording her brushes with the insane in the Freak Folio, a notebook where she writes down her observations, usually in poetic form. Gloria would probably glare at me with her heavily lined eyes for telling you this, but the Freak Folio is also her sanctuary, a place her mind can go when she's filled with sadness over the death of her brother, who died in Afghanistan the year before.

Gloria is successfully burying herself in grief and Freak Folio snarkery until the day she meets Charlie Wyatt. Or, rather, the day Charlie Wyatt follows her into a park, yells at her repeatedly (in the friendliest way possible, of course) and then tells her she's pretty. Suffice it to say, Charlie Wyatt cannot be easily filed away into the Freak Folio. In fact, he's almost impossible to define. He's earnest and kinda cute, but he's also incredibly awkward and can talk for days. About anything (but he's particularly passionate about astronomy). Although he seems like the most positive person on earth, Charlie has his own share of darkness to deal with, and he sees Gloria as beacon of hope. Now he just has to convince Gloria that he belongs, not in the Freak Folio, but in her heart (OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE I JUST WROTE THAT! but I COULDN'T HELP MYSELF. Andrew Auseon, look at what yr book has done to me!).

BFF Charm: Yay!

CHARLIE WYATT I LOVE YOU!!!! I want to hang out with you while you're working at the drugstore and perform ridiculous and destructive tests on sale items and then later that night we can look at stars through yr telescope and I'll listen to you talk as much as you want.

Seriously, y'all, Charlie is one of the most endearing male YA characters I've ever read (we're almost approaching Tiny Cooper levels); he's a charming blend of nerd, weirdo and what my mom would call, "Such a sweet boy!" a hyperactive bundle of idiosyncrasies, Charlie has absolutely no filter, as he acknowledges here:

I took my hands out of my pockets. They wouldn't stop clenching and unclenching in fists, which always happened when I had to reveal information gradually so as to make it interesting to other people, anecdotal. That's how others seemed to like their information. Me, I could just talk, forever if they let me.

I WOULD LET YOU TALK FOREVER CHARLIE WYATT.

As for Gloria, she grew on me. At first I was all "Bish, plz!" cos she's got a major chip on her shoulder. Plus she totally cut my man Charlie down, which means she was CRUISIN FOR A BRUISIN. but as I got to know more about her story and her family, I totally just wanted to give her a hug and invite her to watch Beetlejuice cos girlfriend is sooo Lydia. Unfortunately, I can't cheer her up by making her dance in mid-air BUT I can make some killer brownies.

Bonus charm goes to Charlie's bff, Edison, the coolest kid in a wheelchair since Macaulay Culkin in Saved.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Charlie and Gloria's relationship develops in such an authentic, whimsical way, I had to give it a 5. Sure, there's not really any simmering tension, let alone the horizontal cha-cha-cha, but yr heart will DEFINITELY get involved. Like, way too involved. Like, soccer mom yelling at the ref then jumping on the sidelines while screaming, "MAKE IT HAPPEN ALREADY!" kind of involved.

Talky Talk: Straight Up She & Him

The book alternates between "freak" chapters (Charlie's POV) and "magnet" chapters (Gloria's POV), and Auseon has created extremely unique and compelling voices for both of them. I'm actually really impressed at how distinct and developed the main characters are, not to mention the supporting cast. The dialogue is realistic, and Auseon's writing style teems with emotion without getting too sappy. My only complaint is... the poetry. OH THE POETRY. The minute I saw Gloria's first poem, my lip did the Fred Savage curl. I get that writing is an outlet for Gloria, and I also understand that she's a teenage girl, and teenage girls write bad poetry. But was it really necessary for me to read it? I served as the lit mag editor for a year in high school for God's sakes. I THINK I'VE DONE MY FAIR SHARE. Thankfully, the poetry is sprinkled v. sparingly through the book, plus it's written in a different font, so it's easy to avoid prepare yrself.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

DANG Andrew Auseon, you really outdid yrself with this bonus factor. Like, I am amazed. Cos not only did you include a dude in a wheelchair, you also made yr main female character Arab and acted like IT AIN'T NO THANG, as opposed to basically begging for praise because ATTENTION EVERYONE I PUT A BROWN PERSON IN MY BOOK. I KNOW I AM AMAZING NOW PLEASE HAND ME MY NOBEL.

Bonus Factor: Drug Store

Charlie has a part-time job working at a drug store, and you guys I love drug stores!!!!! The cheap and plentiful make-up! The abundance of candy bars! The "As Seen on TV" products! The instantly outdated holiday merchandise!

Bonus Factor: Dinosaurs Vs Robots

Early on in the book, Charlie, his dad and Edison get into a discussion about "a movie in which reanimated dinosaurs fought robots from the future." WHAAAAAT!!!!!!!!! Attention Transformers 3: THERE BETTER BE A T-REX INVOLVED. Also, Charlie's response (in favor of the film) only made me love him more:

"Come on! No matter which side loses the war, it's the audience that wins."

Casting Call:

I don't think he's the perfect fit, BUT out of all of the teen actors in my (limited) archive, I think Nicholas Braun is a great choice when awkward yet awesome and kinda-yeah-definitely hot is called for:

Nicholas Braun as Charlie

As for Gloria, I'm only familiar with one teen-ish actress of Arab descent, but fortunately, she can totally nail the snark:

Alia Shawkat as Gloria

Relationship Status: Marriage Pact

This book is one of those friends you never want to lose. It makes me laugh and it loves being wacky, but it's also not afraid to express its emotions. In short, this book is utterly wonderful, and I want to keep it around forever, so much so that I've made a marriage pact with it. If i haven't found my soul mate by the time I turn 40, this book and I will get married. Sure, we won't really have the sexy, but we will have a lifetime of awesome companionship ahead of us.

Plus, since there's no romantic pressure, we can forgo the big fancy wedding and just have an awesome kegger dance party with a dinosaur vs robot theme. YES.

FTC Full Disclosure: My review copy was a free ARC I received from HarperTeen. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Freak Magnet is already available in stores.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).