Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature


Product Details

Carolrhoda Lab (R)
Publish Date
5.7 X 8.4 X 1.1 inches | 1.05 pounds

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About the Author

Sashi Kaufman is a middle-school teacher and an author. She lives in Portland, Maine, with her family. Visit her online at www.sashikaufman.com.


"Ben Wireman's last name is a constant reminder that his hearing aids always make him stand out in a crowd, and for all the wrong reasons. Thankfully, being best friends with Tyler, the school heartthrob, certainly smooths some of the more awkward social situations. Recently, though, something has been going on with Tyler. He's been distant, alienating everyone around him. As Ben struggles with how to be a true friend, he meets Ilona Pierce, a foul-mouthed misfit who nevertheless helps him understand that all of us are freaks of nature, one way or another. With her help, Ben hopes to reach Tyler before their friendship falls completely apart. Kaufman takes a well-tread YA premise and breathes heart and grit into it. Her command of teenage dialogue is masterful, as is her ability to inject humor and gravitas into her scenes. She is also able to juggle multiple hard-hitting topics, such as sexual abuse, economic disparity, differences in social status, and the need for empathy, without being preachy or didactic. She even deftly avoids the 'manic pixie dream girl' trap with Ilona by fleshing out her history and home life. Packed with depth, joy, and hope, Kaufman's book is ultimately a story of how to be a friend--a topic that is always prescient for young adults."--starred, Booklist

-- (8/1/2016 12:00:00 AM)

"White high school senior Ben Wireman wants to think about other things besides his hearing aids--like partying, soccer, and putting off his college applications. His Filipino best friend, Tyler Nuson, has always helped him blend in, but Tyler's increasingly volatile behavior and seemingly homophobic attitude foreshadow a troubling secret, driving Ben away. Tyler's lashing out at what he fears mirrors Ben's aversion to other deaf students, but Ben's hang-ups are more easily (and predictably) cured by the neglected, blue-haired, part-Japanese, casually rebellious Ilona Pierce. À la Ron Koertge's Stoner & Spaz (2001), Ilona snaps Ben out of his self-consciousness with sex, drugs, and her free-spirited outlook. Tyler's fears, rooted in the complexities of sexuality and abuse, are less neatly resolved. Kaufman believably portrays uncertainties surrounding sex and sexuality, discussing perceptions of abuse and positioning Tyler and Ben's relationship against assumptions that close male friendships are sexual. However, some lines are left too blurred. Ilona happens to frequent a primarily gay club; it's unclear whether that indicates her orientation or--more troublingly--her edginess, given her stock 'worldly tough girl' vibes. While Tyler's reason for questioning his sexuality is understandable, it's also inaccurate, and the characters don't recognize that quite firmly enough for such a seldom-explored issue. A well-intentioned testament to letting freak flags fly, marred by ambiguity in the wrong places."--Kirkus Reviews

-- (7/1/2016 12:00:00 AM)

"Ben and Tyler have been best friends since the fourth grade, but now, in their senior year, they are drifting apart. Ben has made it his mission in life to fit in, but he still feels like an outsider. Despite having plenty of friends, earning good grades, and playing goalie on the varsity soccer team, Ben worries that others think he is a 'freak' because he wears hearing aids. When Ben meets Ilona, a girl who doesn't care what people think of her, he starts to question his own outlook on belonging. Meanwhile, Tyler has always been the golden boy: he is the soccer team star, has a steady flow of girlfriends, and is always the life of the party. Lately, though, Tyler has been withdrawn and his grades are dropping. Throughout the year, Ben and Tyler deal with a myriad of issues, including family problems, relationships, abuse, race, disabilities, drinking, drugs, sexuality, and romance. The boys' friendship is strong and carries them through difficulties. Kaufman brings a fresh voice to the contemporary realistic fiction genre. VERDICT: This will appeal to those who enjoy Carrie Mesrobian's books."--School Library Journal

-- (7/1/2016 12:00:00 AM)

"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."--Publishers Weekly

-- (6/20/2016 12:00:00 AM)