Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature

Sashi Kaufman. Carolrhoda Lab, $17.99 (264p) ISBN 978-1-4677-8563-1
At the heart of Kaufman’s poignant novel is a complicated friendship between soccer players Ben, who is partially deaf, and Tyler, who is guarding a destructive secret. Ben has worn hearing aids for years, which make him feel like a freak. Tyler, one of the only nonwhite kids at school, has always understood Ben but seems to be pulling away. Through this increasingly strained relationship, Kaufman (The Other Way Around) confronts head-on boys’ fears that close friendships might make them “seem gay,” even as Ben and Tyler realize how much they need each other. As Ben’s worries about Tyler grow, he is determined to support his friend, though Tyler’s secret is bigger than Ben imagined. While Ben and Tyler’s relationship is central, Kaufman sensitively recounts Ben’s struggle to feel “normal” and his romantic explorations with girls; a blue-haired girl named Ilona, who has no problem with the label “freak,” proves key in helping Ben understand himself and reconnect with Tyler. It’s a keenly observed, emotionally deep examination of wounded, insecure teens trying to find their way. Ages 14–up. Agent: Lauren MacLeod, Strothman Agency. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/20/2016
Release date: 09/01/2016
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