Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature by Sashi Kaufman
Review by Lauren
source: copy from BEA16; all opinions are my own
Official Summary: Ben Wireman is partially deaf and completely insecure. The only two things that make him feel normal are being a soccer goalie and hanging out with his best friend, Tyler.
Tyler Nuson is the golden boy, worshiped by girls and guys alike. But Tyler’s golden facade is cracking, and the dark secrets hidden behind it are oozing to the surface. Ben has no idea what to do when Tyler’s memories of their past start poisoning everything, including their friendship.
Enter Ilona Pierce. With tattoos, blue hair, and almost no friends, she’s exactly the kind of weirdo Ben has tried to avoid his entire life. But without Tyler, Ben isn’t sure who he is anymore, and maybe, just maybe, hanging out with a freak is what he needs.
Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature is a captivating and compelling story about the shifting dynamics between two best friends during their senior year in high school, as their loyalty to each other is tested by betrayal, secrets, girls, and the complex art of growing up.
Review: Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature was a book that I came across when researching what books would be at BEA16. It sounded like one I’d really enjoy, so I was excited when the publishing company were giving out ARCs on the second day. This is one of those coming-of-age books that I feel like contemporary lovers would really enjoy, even if you can’t relate to every aspect of the book. Despite the specifics, this book is truly about growing up, becoming the person you want to be, falling in love, and dealing with the changing nature of friendships.
Specifically, this book is about Ben Wireman who has partially deaf and therefore must always wear hearing aids. He hates this about himself and his very self-conscious, using his longer hair to hide them. His best friend is Tyler Nuson, who everybody loves. He’s just a nice guy, no matter who you are, but Ben tends to live his life in Tyler’s shadow. He doesn’t entirely hate this though, as he truly does love Tyler – in a best friend way. The two have been friends for years and they always have each other’s back. Except this year, their senior year, Tyler isn’t acting the same. He’s getting mad at their soccer coach, spending more time around one girl than he normally does, and not talking to Ben.
As the year progresses, Ben meets Ilona Pierce in a class and is partnered up with her on a project. He hates this idea at first, but soon grows to like Ilona and her carefree attitude. I wasn’t sure about Ilona at first either, but she grows on you. I didn’t like how she treated her mom, but I could understand some of why she did what she did. Plus, she’s all about being okay with yourself and she tries to instill that in Ben.
All three of these characters’ lives become intertwined as the year goes on. Ben discovers more about Tyler, secrets come out, and Ilona finds herself helping two boys discover who they really and truly are – despite disabilities and past hurts. It’s a good read, though a bit slow in parts. Regardless, I kind of wished I could know these people in real life and just hang out with them. It felt real, and I always appreciate that in a contemporary novel.