FREAKS is a fast-paced adventure that never loses the heart of its very unusual characters. I really enjoyed the page-turning suspense. This book is impossible to put down for two reasons--we care about the main characters, and we aren't at all sure they can save the day.
The characters make this novel stand out in a sea of novels where the characters are pretty, accomplished, and fully equipped to stand up to adults with nasty agendas. In FREAKS, Sheba and her friends are the kind of people who can only survive in Victorian London by being part of a sideshow--the kind of show where others pay money to come stare at those who are incredibly different from the average human. Sheba's loneliness and shame at the beginning of the novel gradually transform into confidence and loyalty to her new found family of fellow freaks. The themes of courage, loyalty, and resourcefulness and woven all throughout the novel. Even though Sheba and her friends are determined to figure out what/who is stealing children along the riverbank, they are barely up to the task. Often, their efforts fail or increase the danger to themselves, and I found the story gripping because I wanted them to succeed, but I wasn't sure they could.
The setting is also brilliantly written. Vivid sensory details bring Victorian London to life. I could always see the story playing out in my mind as if I was watching a movie. I learned a lot about that time period both from the story itself and from author's additional notes at the back of the book. I also thoroughly enjoyed the illustrations at the back of the book. Each main character has a portrait done, and middle grade readers will love comparing the pictures with the characters they've built in their minds.
What Left Me Wanting More:
Not much, honestly. I really loved this book.
Vivid detail, memorable characters, and a thrilling adventure make FREAKS a book worthy of a space on my "favorites" shelf.