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The Freak    by Carol Matas order for
by Carol Matas
Order:  USA  Can
Key Porter, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Carol Matas - author of a broad variety of books including an early 1900s middle schooler series starring Rosie Lepidus, and Past Crimes aimed at older teens - takes off from an intriguing premise in The Freak.

This new series stars fifteen-year-old Jade, daughter of a math professor and a psychologist, and with a younger brother, Martin. Jade's a math and science whiz who believes in logic. Her life starts off 'orderly, neat, and pretty happy.' Then Jade is admitted to hospital with meningitis and has a near-death experience. When she recovers, she's not the same person.

She can tell what people are thinking - she has always had 'a very acute awareness of body language' but this is more extreme - and starts to get flashes of coming events (usually bad ones). She sees colors around individuals that flag their emotions. When she blurts out what she knows about people, they start looking at her strangely. And when she predicts a school fire, they call her a freak.

Jade sees shrinks. The first suggests that she's psychic and wants to help her learn to deal with it (counsel she vehemently rejects), while the second prescribes anti-anxiety drugs that mute everything and make her feel like a zombie. She gets different input from her Mom and her grandmother (Baba). The latter tells her that her great-great-grandmother 'could talk to spirits and tell the future.'

Then her Aunt Janeen brings her East Indian significant other, Sahjit, and his teenaged sons for Jewish New Year. The middle son Jon is 'too gorgeous for words.' He and Jade start dating, but she hides her talent from him. Sahjit is a lawyer who's working on the extradition of a war criminal, something that brings danger close to home. Jon is attacked, there's hate mail at school, and then Jade has visions of an exploding car.

Carol Matas does a great job of portraying the stages that Jade goes through in dealing with her new abilities - total disbelief, denial, and finally a grudging acceptance and recognition that good can come from being what others consider a freak. Jade must come out of the closet about being different, or risk hurt to those she loves. The Freak is an excellent start to what promises to be an exciting and thought-provoking new series.

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