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.
Sashi Kaufman is a middle school science and English teacher who lives in Cumberland, Maine with her family, one dog and 8 chickens at last count. She loves contemporary YA, survival stories of all kinds, and journeys large and small. She is an amateur trash-picker and apologizes now if she has ever poached anything you did not mean to leave on the curb. She hates caraway seeds.
I kindly received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I fell in love with this book. Our protagonist, Ben, is enduring those always-difficult months of high school senior year. He's also partially deaf, and very self-conscious about the hearing aids he wears. His best friend, Tyler, is getting more and more distant, presumably because of their upcoming departures. They're both a bit stereotypical -- soccer stars who party each weekend with the hottest people of the school, drink and get high despite their team's agreement to stay sober, readily discuss sexual conquests, but of course Ben doesn't enjoy it as much as Tyler. He's the reluctant hero of this book, the self-named geek who's actually attractive. Meanwhile, Tyler is handling a horrific experience he'd endured years before and questioning many parts of his life, which is what actually drives his distant behavior. Thanks to a school assignment that Ben can't avoid, he meets the "whimsical pixie" of the novel, a blue-haired gardener whose mother is stuck in the nineties. Needless to say, Ilona becomes the savior of the book, helping both boys come to some type of terms with themselves.
I really can't say what I enjoyed so much about the novel. It may have been the clean and cohesive narrative. Possibly the intensity of the subject matter. The characterization and development certainly kept my attention; despite the characters' apparent stereotypical roles, I felt that Kaufman made them fresh and sympathetic, and I enjoyed watching them grow and handle their decisions. The only fault would probably be the lack of completed character arcs, though I feel that Ben, Tyler, and Ilona reached enough conclusions for the reader to know what to expect.
Thank you to NetGalley, CarolRhoda Lab and Lerner Publishing for the amazing ARC, Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature by Sashi Kaufman. The friendship of Ben and Tyler will speak to teens, students and YA readers. Best friends since fourth grade, soccer players and now seniors, Ben sees/feels things changing with Tyler and doesn’t know why. Very insecure due to his hearing aids, Ben does so much internal thinking, worrying, and agonizing about what is going on with Tyler, going to college (he doesn’t like change) and just about everything else. But Ben is Tyler’s steadfast friend and continues to outwardly support Tyler even as he fears asking Tyler questions. Ben is assigned a partner, Ilona, in a group project and as he gets to know her, Ben finds he can talk and laugh and not feel uncomfortable at all with blue haired, trash mouthed, freak of nature, Ilona. What will happen as Ben, Tyler & Ilona begin to hang out? Sashi Kaufman gets teens; Ben, Tyler, and Ilona are teens readers will relate to, want to know more about, and Wired Man delivers! This is the perfect book on friendship, family, teens navigating high school and life. Run out and get this book at a library, bookstore or e-reader September 2016.
First thought: What kind of ending was that?! That was the most abrupt and unsatisfying ending I've ever read. What had the potential to be a really excellent book, especially in regard to portraying the deaf and hard-of-hearing, turned out to be a real flop. I didn't dislike this book, but after finishing the whole thing, there's not much that I liked, either.
Still in the afterglow of just finishing this amazing second novel by Sashi Kaufman. Her characters are so real and so lovable; I really wasn't ready to let them go in the end. The wit in the writing and the absolute understanding of how teenagers feel like "freaks" in the world make this a magical read.
What a fantastic friendship, featuring the trope of The Golden Boy athlete + his nerd sidekick, except in this scenario the Golden Boy really IS genuinely nice and friendly towards everyone (I mean, he hooks up with girls and objectifies them, but the girls are definitely into being casual), and the nerd sidekick is actually a hot athlete too, just shy and self-conscious about his hearing aids. To my delight, they are soccer stars, a rarity in American YA but which is totally my jam as a former soccer player myself, so I loved the descriptions of the games like I have never loved sports in a novel before.
And most importantly, they are super tight best friends, the kind people joke about being boyfriends, in a way where it's obviously a joke and they're not too fussed about being called out on it. I've been craving a friendship like this for so long. I tried to find it in Darius the Great Is Not Okay, which was good but not quite it because Darius trended toward the mushy side on top of being a bullying victim, and because they were in Iran and his friend was a native, the cultural context for male friendship was totally different. I wanted to see inside the friendship of two very typical, fairly popular, average American guys, and this was exactly the wheelhouse I wanted.
There are a fair number of stories from earlier stages of their friendship as well as supportive friend stuff in the present day, including at least one instance of one crying in front of the other (OUTTA MY WAY IT'S MY FAVORITE TROPE) -- the Galaxy Room scene KILLED ME in the best way.
I enjoyed their early chemistry so much I was dreading the point at which Tyler and Ben might have a big fight and not speak to each other for half the book, but despite what the summary says, it never comes. During the "winter" section they do tend to drift out of each other's orbits, but Ben's storyline stands on its own, and Tyler isn't ever totally out of the picture. The secret behind Tyler's moodiness was nothing like I expected, especially since it had multiple layers, but it was handled so well. And I thought Ben did such a good job of being supportive and non-judgmental without magically having all the answers or knowing exactly what to say.
They sometimes do the straight-guy thing where they worry that they're too close, but it's done in a way that I find believable from a world where you're getting a lot of the message that It's Okay To Be Gay and sometimes people don't realize they are until later, without enough counterbalance to reinforce that guys can also be close in a totally platonic way.
I thought it was really intriguing to see things like Tyler's concern that he can't imagine feeling about his girlfriend the way he feels about his brother or Ben, or that anyone will ever know him as well as his best friend does, and how that plays into his confusion. From someone with a friendship like that on top of tons of physical experience w/ girls but no actual experience with romance despite being a senior in high school, that feels like a really legitimate fear that either you don't know your own identity, which is disconcerting enough, or maybe you're just broken in the ability-to-connect-love-and-sex department.
Long story short, they're not super touchy-feely or demonstrative. They rag on each other when warranted. But they are absolutely, without a doubt, bonded for life and able to be there for each other no matter what.
Other characters are great too. I loved the warmth of Ben's family -- he even likes his older sister! -- contrasted with the sterility and emptiness of Tyler's wealthier home (though I do wish we'd seen more of the latter's little bro Jeremiah). Even Ilona, whom I initially found horrible, turned out to be awesome basically as soon as we went to her house.
Maybe it was her justifiable clash of wills with her mother, or her totally unabashed "we have to stay up all night to watch TV for our homework assignment, so I'm gonna wear my comfy pajama set of a camisole and boxer shorts and you can just deal with it, ya dumb boy" attitude. My feelings may also have been influenced by the fact that she ends up getting Ben to stretch out in bed with her and read aloud from Lord of the Rings (a cute boy reading to you? that's the teenage dream).
Or maybe it was just how much I adored the way these two build up a strange friendship before broaching anything more. It was really sweet to watch Ben, nervous and excited and scared all at once, realize he was into this girl. He's so awkward and yet earnest that's it totally endearing. And I super-loved when he and Tyler ended up hanging out with her as a trio of friends.
Oh! I almost forgot; apropos of nothing, Kaufman even throws me a combo hit of Ben's hand being badly bruised / possibly broken during a soccer match, and later giving him mono. Was there not already enough hurt/comfort with Tyler, you gotta activate my Florence Nightingale Syndrome too?? (I love it.)
I do have to say that this book is filled to the brim with teen drinking/weed smoking, some cursing and plenty of hookup shenanigans and other frank references to sexuality, and that's normally the trifecta of Garbage I Don't Need In My Fiction -- but somehow I was fine hand-waving all of it. I thought it made sense in context and worked for the story, and when do I EVER say that? Almost never! That's how good this book is.
For me, at least. I don't think this book is for everyone, and I don't know exactly who I would recommend it to, but I am so happy it is a book that works for me. I don't know if I want a sequel, but I definitely want a collection of deleted scenes or maybe every short story the author would like to write regarding Ben and/or Tyler.
And now, after averaging a 4.5 star rating from me across 2 titles, I will sit here and weep that, at least at the time of this writing, there are no more Sashi Kaufman novels for me to enjoy. A true shame, because she is so, so good at writing teenage boys I find enjoyable, and it is so, so hard for YA authors to manage that.
This book was a hot mess for many reasons, most importantly that it is painfully, offensively homophobic in that "look at me being all tolerant and definitely not homophobic" sort of way: Two guys can just be really really close friends without being gay, you know. Not that there is anything wrong with being gay. It would be perfectly fine if one of my main characters turned out to be gay. THEY'RE NOT. But it would be fine if they were. Really. Totally fine. Seriously.
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.
When I saw that the main character, Ben, was deaf (well partially so), I was all over this book. I'm deaf. But profoundly so.
But that actually resulted in me having a lot of trouble with Ben. he's now in high school and still having a problem with being deaf? Feeling insecure and unhappy with himself? I'm sorry but GET OVER YOURSELF. I forget now when he lost his hearing but he had done so by the time he met Tyler who became his best friend.
In any case, it's now the high school years. Ben can't accept himself therefore can't accept that others accept him. Mouthful I know but apt.
Tyler's the opposite. Very comfortable in his skin and does well with the girls. Turns out that he has a demon or two of his own.
This is your typical rite of passage YA story where the characters learn to accept themselves. I went ahead and gave it a 4 instead of a 3 because 1) hey, Ben is deaf. I'm deaf. Biased? YES. 2) Tyler's story and how it plays out.
Since my bias ended up working against Ben instead of for Ben, my experience with the book isn't as good as I imagine it will be for others.
In that vein, I recommend this book.
Thank you to the publisher for providing me a free copy of this book (finally) in exchange for my honest review.
High school is hard enough without being self-conscious about your hearing aids. It's been especially rocky for Ben, who grapples not only with his hearing loss, but also with being eclipsed by his popular, athletic best friend Tyler. Senior year should be the time for Ben and Tyler to coast by, but instead Tyler is backsliding, failing, and talking back to the soccer coach. Ben, on the other hand, discovers that girls ARE interested in him, and starts to come out of his shell. Ben should just focus on the girls who are into him now - after all, that's what Tyler always did, leaving Ben behind for a hot new girl. But Ben's not that guy. He has to get to the root of his friend's problems before Tyler wrecks his chance at a decent future, even if that means putting his own future happiness at risk.
3.5 stars I'm not entirely sure what to think of this book. It wasn't what I was expecting, but the writing was good and it was really hard to put down. It's not one of those make you cry, make you laugh out loud kind of books, but overall I really enjoyed it. Ilona was definitely my favorite character - she seemed the most real-to-life character, like you don't tend to find in books anymore.
This book... was something. It was good when everything was alright (in the beginning), but then ideas were almost thrown away halfway into the book which makes me wonder why they were even introduced in the first place. For instance, remember when Julie Snow was introduced and Tyler made this deal about her having a crush on Ben and then he was like "Uh, I don't know man," and that was that? And then she is mentioned in the last chapter of the book and then you're thinking "Who the heck is Julie Snow"? What about Darcy? Did she give mono to another dude? The world may never know. After Ben met Ilona, it's like the whole world stopped and started changing for him, and we lose touch with characters who weren't "important", but kept the story going. Where is the chapter where Ben tells Darcy to leave him alone (because he wasn't feeling it anymore)? What happened to him being insecure about his hearing aids? That plotline became second to the "What is going with my best friend?" one. This book left so many unanswered questions I'm not sure what to think of it. Maybe I'm the only one, and everyone else thought it was a satisfying ending, but I didn't think so.
Another issue I had with the book is that I couldn't relate to it. I'm a girl who hasn't finished high school yet (and am far from it), the main character is a senior in high school. I think my grades are more important than boys, and Ben doesn't really care about his grades. Halfway through the novel, he and his best friend Tyler start worrying about whether they're gay or not (so much to the point of contemplating suicide on Tyler's part) out of nowhere. It was such an underlying tone that I didn't even notice it was there, and it makes me ask yet another question: Why does it all matter?
Being gay isn't a bad thing, but the leading men of this novel make it seem like it's end-all-be-all. Around the second section of the book, Tyler is starting to have issues, and he's crying late at night over something that's tearing him apart. Whatever could it be? I thought it was about his parents' neglection or fear of the unknown -- but no! It's over being gay. Maybe this is a big thing for guys, but I truly wouldn't know. The only experience I've had with worrying about being gay is that my best guy friend didn't have a birthday get-together at the movies because he thought inviting guys would be gay. It's not the same for girls because by now we'd already know. It doesn't cause for all of this overthinking and crying and isolation, really. We're attracted to what we're attracted to, and that's it.
Was Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature a good book? It was when I began to read it, but about halfway through is where it lost me. I will say that Ilona was a breath of fresh air for the most part. It's not like I laughed at anything she said, but someone else's dysfunctions must be a turn on for guys who are well-put-together. That's why Ben chose her, right? I guess I'd recommend this to a boy who overthinks a lot and is worried about being gay or someone who prefers an unresolved story, but it certainly wasn't for me.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
The characters were unbearable and I can't believe there were so many passive-aggressive gay freakouts by two straight boys. Also, what happened with the babysitter was truly terrible so why did the author downplay it so much???
I'll give this a 1.5/5 because the writing wasn't terrible but jesus, this plot.
This is a gritty coming-of-age novel about Ben, a high school senior and soccer play. Ben's secret is that he is deaf. The only people who really know this, and who he feels totally comfortable with, are his friend Tyler and his family.
There is a lot going on in this book, soccer, partying, abuse, love, determining one's sexuality, but mostly learning how one fits into the world.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This is a fun, quirky, think-outside-the-box story about a young guy just trying to figure it out. I love his weird relationship with the weird girl at school, and how he learns the important lesson of judging a book by its cover. Ultimately, the friendships in this book are what trump the entire plot, and I love the interactions between these three main characters who, in very weird ways, become friends.
Best friends Ben and Tyler are seniors in high school. Ben has convinced himself this he is the lesser of the two, due to his hearing loss and introverted personality. Tyler is outgoing, social, and tends to be Ben's protector. This relationship has worked for them well over the years...until now.
Things begin to fall apart, and neither Ben nor the reader know quite why at first. Clearly something is up with Tyler--he starts to blow off Ben, and begins having uncharacteristic mood swings. So instead of stepping up, Ben backs away.
Ben meets self-proclaimed freak Ilona. Ilona has her own issues, but owns them with confidence and bravado, which Ben sees and values.
We as readers figure out early on what Tyler's issue is, and I say bravo to Sashi Kaufman for writing about something that few YA books deal with. Some readers will be frustrated with the lack of closer in regards to what Tyler is handling, but we need to remember that this book is from Ben's perspective--and Ben, although he gains confidence throughout the novel, is still an awkward teenager who doesn't always know what to say. And really, it isn't Ben's issue to deal with--it's Tyler's. The message is about how Ben, who has spent his childhood being supported by Tyler, takes steps to discover that there is a world outside of himself, and that he can be supportive to others as well.
It took me awhile to get into the book. I thought it moved rather slowly, but the mystery of Tyler's behavior kept me intrigued. By the second half, I was hooked and wondering where this story would go. I liked the book overall, but felt it was a bit anticlimactic. I wanted more to happen, for the characters to evolve. The characters were well developed, I really felt a sense of who each person was, but I expected more.
I just don't get why this book was written. it's not anything. all it was was a bad plot and rude gay jokes. "that's soooo gay," "oh my god, I love my best friend, does that make me gay?" "I hugged my best friend, am I gay now?" "I have 65 girlfriends but I think I'm gay. oh no! I need to wear a black v- neck t-shirt and go to a gay bar right now!" seriously?
meh. Although there were a lot of great themes and I did like the way that they were addressed it felt like there was just oo much going on interms of issues and it came together too neatly in the end.