Patterson brings the misfit theme of Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life and its sequels into edgier territory in this illustrated novel about a group of high-school outcasts who call themselves “the Freakshow.” The story unfolds through the diary of self-nicknamed Cuckoo, who was recently hospitalized after a breakdown, and teeters between emotional instability and self-assuredness. Cuckoo’s mother disappeared months earlier, her supportive foster mother dies suddenly, and her best friend attempts suicide. Buoyed by the Freakshow, her child-prodigy biology teacher, and her foster sister, Cuckoo uses intelligence, creativity, and humor to rebound, while also attempting to bring together the school’s feuding cliques. Filled with drily funny dialogue balloons and captions, Keino’s cartoons have a Bratz-doll-meets-notebook-doodle aesthetic (Cuckoo herself is sort of Goth-lite, with a shaggy haircut, dark wardrobe, and heavily made-up eyes), with imagined cameos from the likes of Holden Caulfield, Nicki Minaj, and Katniss and Peeta. An ardent advocate of happy endings, Cuckoo signs off with a strong hint she’ll return. Ages 12–up. Author’s agent: Robert Barnett, Williams & Connolly. Illustrator’s agent: Advocate Art. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/12/2014 Release date: 07/21/2014 Genre: Children's
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