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The Freak Observer

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  545 Ratings  ·  156 Reviews
For eight years, Loa Lindgren’s world ran like one of those mechanical models of the solar system, with her baby sister, Asta, as the sun. Asta suffered from a genetic disorder that left her a permanent infant, and caring for her was Loa’s life. Everything spun neatly and regularly as the whole family orbited around Asta.

But now Asta’s dead, and 16-year-old Loa’s clockwork
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Published June 20th 2011 by Brilliance Audio (first published August 1st 2010)
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Carolrhoda Lab for the win yet again! Seriously, I've been on top of this inprint since they debuted with DRAW THE DARK and TRAITOR and they've yet to publish anything even remotely resembling a word turd. Their books are so rich and deep that you just get sucked right in and you don't even realize you were under water until you emerge breathless. THE FREAK OBSERVER is no exception.

Now this is literary YA that I can sink my teeth into. It's succinct but vibrant. Loa doesn't pity herself even tho
Nova Waite
So far, as an English teacher, I could criticize so many things about this book. But if the author is reading this review out of curiousity...I will temper my criticism with praise first--I thought the physics problems at the beginning of each chapter were outstanding pieces of craft. I'm a big fan of compositional risk, and especially look for "what has not been done before" in a book. I've never seen physics problems as a way to introduce chapters in a realistic fiction book. The writer scores ...more
A story with a very strong voice, a very fragile girl, and a family that make you kind of grateful for what you have.
I enjoyed the voice, which reminded me of Speak, and I did like being in Loa's head...until I became bored. Not bored of her, but bored of the story. Nothing was in order, so I was constantly confused. Was this before her friend died, or after?
There's also quite a lot of talk about death and people's coping mechanisms. It made for quite a depressing read.
My main concern for the b
Sometimes with books like this, I can't bear to get through them. I read like ten pages at a time, I start another book--all in hopes of avoiding a seemingly inevitable outcome that results in the horrible wasting away of the teenage protagonist. And by books like this I mean books where the teenage protagonist just gets the shit kicked out of them--physically and emotionally--by life.

I guess I'm a bit of a coward like that.

However, in this book like that, Blythe Woolston's, The Freak Observer,
Man, I just thought I'd read a couple of pages of this before I went to sleep last night and polished off the whole thing in like two hours which is RIDICULOUS but in the good way. And I woke up with it in my head. This is a truly bold debut--a raw slice-of-life and intimate look at the head and heart of a girl who has gone through more than her fair share. I liked getting to know Loa. Her narrative is memorable and also unpredictable, which I really appreciated. Couldn't put it down.
Nov 13, 2015 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Grade: C-

Loa is one of the saddest characters I've read recently. Ever since her younger sister died of Rett Syndrome, a degenerative disease that left her infantile, Loa's family has fallen apart. Her often intoxicated parents treat her like she's the cause of their problems. Then she witnesses one of her friends run over by a car. Now Loa is friendless and has to work to help support her family as she watches her dreams of college fade with her grades. And, a new friend might be the most harmf
Feb 12, 2015 BradyF rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Grade/interest level:I think anybody from 6th grade to 10th grade would enjoy this book.
Reading level: I think the reading level is average.
Genre: I think this book was a thriller.
Main Characters: Loa
Setting: A medium sized town in Montana.
POV: First Person.

This book always had me entertained. Like for example in the beginning it talked about her writing a report and bam it started talking about when her friend was hit by a car. So as soon as it starts to get boring it becomes exciting. So I wo
One of those books that don't need a rating.

There's Holden, and then there's Loa.
Sep 23, 2015 Em rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
Em's Review: My new favorite word which feels kind of funny in my mouth? Orrery. An Orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system. Loa Lindgren’s family once worked like a science fair prize-worthy orrery (Our gears turned so smoothly and all the parts fit together so perfectly). At the center of their family orbit, was her baby sister Asta, taking the place of the sun in this metaphor, and the family’s life worked around their sun like the clockwork of an orrery (no one ever went missing lik ...more
"I find it weird that nobody teaches us about dreams in school. You'd think it would come up at some point, like maybe in health class or something, but it doesn't. There was that inspirational speaker who tore a phone book in half and told us to dream big, but his message had nothing to do with our dream life while we sleep. He was all about goals and, I guess, dislike for phone books."

Loa's life has been filled with heartache and loss. Most recently, she was present for the death of a high sch
Jul 04, 2011 TheBookSmugglers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Original review posted on The Book Smugglers HERE

The Freak Observer is the 2011 winner of the William C. Morris Award. This award is given by YALSA to a debut book published by a first-time author writing for young adults and I have decided to try and read all of this year’s nominees. So far, I’ve read Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride (which didn’t work for me) and Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey (which I loved without reservations). The Freak Observer falls somewhere in between
Nov 21, 2010 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Loa, who has just lost a younger sister and a friend, navigates the worlds of high school and her family... all this interspersed with snippets of theoretical physics.

The narrator of this book had a very unique voice, which I liked. For example, in the library, she described the Dewey decimal system as "a ghetto for old books that couldn't just be put in the dumpster but weren't worth the trouble of assigning new numbers and moving to new shelves." She goes on to describe the "shelves of oversiz
In the months between when I put this book on my list to order for school and today when I read it, I forgot why I ordered it. I do remember that the heart and brain cover is what first attracted my attention, because I still find the cover intriguing. Good reviews and the Morris Award certainly played a part, and I would definitely have read summaries within those reviews and on the book distributor's site. Still, when I pulled it out of my bag last night, I wasn't sure what I was about to be r ...more
Mar 14, 2012 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loa Lindgren, the protagonist in The Freak Observer, struggles to find her place outside her family after her young sister dies from a rare genetic disease. For years her sister was the center of the family's universe, and after her death, the family begins to fall apart, and roles that were automatic during her life lose their significance. Loa's character is credible; she is intelligent, thoughtful, a caregiver, but she is also cautious to become emotionally tied to anyone and so becomes an "o ...more
Oct 24, 2010 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read for the disaffected teenager.

Loa is struggling with a number of challenges. Her dad's out of work, her mom's got a drug problem, she doesn't fit in at school and her baby sister, Asta, is dead. The only person Loa can lean on for support is her friend Corey who's got issues of his own and is soon shipped off to Europe by his mom.

Then her friend Ester is hit by a car and Loa spirals further into depression, trying to use her love of science to explain enough of what's going o
Aug 08, 2010 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is sort of like the female version of Catcher in the Rye. Or maybe it would be what Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird might write as a senior in high school, if her best friend had died, and her world had fallen apart, giving her nightmares and PTSD. Can you tell I'm saying "literary classic" here? Because it really is a brilliant little book. I loved the scientific references, and the little bits from the classroom at the beginning of each chapter. It was so lovely to read an intellige ...more
Jun 06, 2012 Tracy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
"I still have to do it. I just don't enjoy it.
That pretty much describes anything anymore."


"It is very hard not to remember something. It's easy to forget but very hard not to remember on purpose....

I know that I can't choose not to remember. I can't choose the slide show in my imagination.

I can practically hear my neurons laughing at me. The little shits."

That's the beginning and end of p. 147 of the copy of this book lent to me by the New York Public Library, and I think they've just bum
Aug 19, 2014 Samantha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
While I did enjoy this book, I can't really rate it higher than a three. The story itself is good and well told, and I found myself really feeling for the character of Loa. As a teenager I also struggled with anxiety and depression that was spawned after the death of someone very close to me. For Loa the death of her sister Asta is compounded by the rather violent death of her friend Esther who is killed in an accident. It's interesting to see how her family dynamic shifted after Asta's death, a ...more
Aug 21, 2010 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-ya-faves
Utterly original, brazenly bizzare, and (by the end) kind of surprisingly sweet. While I didn't necessarily "love" this book (nor am I sure what teens I'd recommend it too) but I'm certainly still pondering this one -- and that's pretty darn cool. :)
Susann Cokal
Jun 02, 2013 Susann Cokal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Captures perfectly that sense of everything gone wrong around a lonely girl who's seen too much death in her harsh Montana environment. The strong voice implies throughout that there's always hope for someone with a sharp wit and the ability to love.
Nov 06, 2015 Jody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teen, traumatic, death, poverty
This is one of those books where you have no easy response when someone asks you what it's about. Loa is going through a lot of really rough stuff - the death of a friend, of a sister, living in poverty, family problems, horrible dreams. The story jumps around a bit which can be a little confusing at times but which also really captures the whirlwind of crappy stuff hitting her all at once.

Early in the story you find out that Loa's dad hit her and I was thinking this was going to be the story of
Mimi Stiles
Jan 05, 2015 Mimi Stiles rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gillian Boily and Jagger Marvin
So far it is basically about this persons life story, I think she goes through a lot in her life and the book can be really sad. I think this book is decent. I like the action in it and everything but the science part of it can be too much to understand and enjoy. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I liked science and those people would like it most. I interacted with this book at times but it was boring most of the time. I think it would be better if there was more to relate to.
Joanna Price
Grades 9-12. Woolston's novel, winner of the 2011 YALSA William C. Morris Award for excellence in a previously unpublished author, is a stunningly moving, honest look at the life of teenage girls. Perhaps the single best feature of Woolston's work is its' seamless integration of different kinds of worldviews into one enriched outlook. The protagonist, Loa, faces the issue of mortality, the meaning of friendship, the application of Physics to real life, how poverty affects opportunity, and the fr ...more
I'm still not really sure what to say or make of this one. On the surface, it appears to be mainly concerned with Loa's mental state following the deaths of her sister and a friend. But there's an awful lot going on in this slim tome. Loa is definitely an interesting character. She's tough and smart, but ultimately still suffering from the death of her little sister, Asta, who had suffered from Rett's Syndrome. Loa had been her sister's caretaker for most of Asta's short life. At some point, the ...more
Jun 29, 2010 Claire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: high school- content
Recommended to Claire by: Carolrhoda
In this book Loa processes her life with us. She lives near a university town but way, way, way off in the back woods; lots and lots of time on the school bus.
The book kicks off with the sudden, violent death of her friend Esther who is hit by a stray log tossed like a toothpick when a logging truck jackknifes near the kids. This compounds the loss earlier that year of her sister Asta who died of a genetic anomaly. The family is still reeling from the loss which was followed closely by Dad losi
Feb 01, 2011 Desiree rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young Adults
I'm going to get straight to the basics to explain why I rated this book 3 stars.

Characterization, for one, is very one dimensional. Loa is portrayed as a very intelligent, rational teenager in high school who is very interested in science and physics. This was interesting and unique, however, I feel that it's the only part of her character - aside from the panic attack in class that occurs midway through the story - that is believable and draws the reader in. She isolates herself from everyone,
Jan 18, 2011 Caren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya
About a quarter of the way through this book, I nearly gave up on it; it is just so relentlessly sad. It is, however, extremely well written and I found myself reading on in the way you can't turn your eyes from a horrific accident, but know you should. It is an edgy, intelligent story and I imagine it to be an engaging read for teens. At the very end, there seems to be a glimmer of hope for Loa, the 16-year-old protagonist. She is a mature, smart girl, but life just keeps throwing so much at he ...more
Diana Welsch
I'm interested in science, and I've had troubles with PTSD due to trauma in my childhood/adolescence, so when I heard about this book, I definitely wanted to read it.

This book is about a teenaged Loa, a girl from a low-income family in Montana who has been dealing with scary dreams and panic attacks after a series of traumatic events. First, her seriously disabled younger sister, who was the core around which the family orbited, passed away. Second, she saw a lifelong acquaintance step in front
Medeia Sharif
Loa is a young woman afflicted by loss. Her friend Esther dies in front of her and preceding that her dear little sister Asta, who had a genetic condition, passed away. Loa ties in science to the happenings of her life. Tidbits of biology, physics, and astronomy are scattered throughout the novel. For example, one scientific instrument mentioned is the orrery, a mechanical model of the solar system that mimics the rotations of moons and planets. It's like Loa's personal orrery is out of whack as ...more
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Blythe Woolston’s first novel, The Freak Observer, won the William C. Morris debut fiction award. She lives in Montana.
More about Blythe Woolston...

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“1. Heat the oven to Denial.
2. Prepare the pan with a spray of Anger.
3. Mix in two medium-size bargains with The Bony Guy.
4. Add 1/3 cup of Depression (tears will do if you want low-fat).
5. Bake...until you can jab a toothpick in your arm and it seems Acceptable.”
“I have seen teenage boys having sex, and they aren't so intense as babies who are figuring out that they have hands...” 2 likes
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