Just like Mary Blanc, Christopher Pike is on a mission. The author delivers the inciting incident of Freak at breakneck speed; he goes straight to murder. In just the opening paragraphs of the 1992 young adult novel, Mary guns down two people at a party before her best friend Angela Warner stops her. Everything seems safe now, but after learning of Mary’s bizarre motive, Angela realizes the real danger “has only just begun.”
Brian Kotzkythe work of art for Freak features a sort of creature story in the vein of vintage “B” movies like I was a teenage werewolf; the cover shows a high school cheerleader walking beside a red-eyed football player. Pike more than delivers on the cover promise, and he does it sooner than other writers. Rather than watch the new girl in town slowly discover the presence of an unnatural threat, Angela is thrown headlong into the heart of darkness after Mary obliterates two of their classmates. Angela’s first three months at Point were quiet until the night of Jim Kline’s party. She still can’t imagine her best friend Mary killing anyone, but the victims, Todd Green and Kathy Baker, say otherwise. Or else their bodies wouldn’t have been torn to pieces. Without Angela, Mary might have had one more victim; she fully intended to kill the host of the party, who happens to be her ex.
Everyone is quick to call it a case of an abandoned teenager using a shotgun to get over a breakup, but Angela refuses to accept the popular narrative. Angela’s first conversation with Mary since the incident creates doubt and questions about the supposed monsters in question. “Todd and Kathy were no longer human beings. That’s why I killed them,” says Mary in prison. Her story – Jim, Todd and Kathy lured two couples to a warehouse for an orgy, but they took them rather eaten – would be too famous for anyone else to believe. Angela, however, is curious about a fault. And, despite all the conjecture going around, she continues to believe that Mary would not kill anyone unless have a good reason.
Much of the 90s YA pulp focuses on human transgressors, including stalkers and deadly rivals. Any dips in the weirdness in these kinds of books often took the form of ghosts and, on occasion, witches, werewolves, and vampires. Pike, on the other hand, left Earth altogether to find his monsters. The imaginative author, whose pseudonym is inspired by a star trek character, channels his love of science fiction into explaining the distinct origin of creatures. This brutal and thorough turn towards pseudoscience happens to be one of the most successful elements of the book.
The bloodthirsty antagonists of Christopher Pike Freak can be traced back to Point Lake, a local body of water formed 100,000 years ago by a meteor. And said meteor was, as a geology professor named Dr. Alan Spark has speculated, a fragment of the original fifth planet from the Sun before it was destroyed and eventually replaced in orbit by Jupiter. The story only gets stranger from now on. In short, the lake’s highly magnetic water in combination with an alien microorganism is now turning Point’s youngsters into what are essentially vampires. This alternate mythos for the creatures so ubiquitous in the horror genre is as unexpected as it is intriguing. Next comes a compelling and expressive subplot about Angela’s budding sexuality in relation to her own alien affliction. Jim’s unearthly allure disarms Angela’s defenses and opens the door to a different kind of desire that goes far beyond physical hunger.
Although she may feel alone on her journey, Angela has support. There is of course Mary, who is only a shadow of herself; she provides advice behind bars, and later motivation for Angela to finish what her best friend started. Then there is the officer in charge of Mary’s case who follows Angela, Lieutenant Nguyen. The Vietnam War veteran turned cop serves as the book’s only anchor to reality, but his loyalties change once the veil between the two worlds fades. Dr. Spark is not Angela’s Charley Brewster’s Peter Vincent due to his concern for academic discredit, but he validates his fringe theory when he could easily have twisted it. As for this dear Kevin, he is always the friend and never the boyfriend. Without him, however, Angela would never have realized that her ability to regret and cry is what separates her from other monsters. the real those.
In an interview with Gabrielle Moss, author of Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of 80s and 90s Teen Fiction, Pike said, “Early on, I decided not to talk to my readers. I would write my YA books the same way I wrote my adult books – only the characters would be younger. Pike didn’t mince words when it came to topics rarely discussed by his contemporaries. In retrospect, not everything he wrote about teenage romance and sex is enjoyable, but the bold and otherworldly way in which he examined these topics is undoubtedly why so many curious young people have flocked to his books at the time. Pike injected his stories with as much heartfelt emotion as carnality and gruesome violence.
by Christopher Pike Freak is a wild ride from start to finish, and readers will find it hard to put the book down once they get started. As always, Pike deftly balances drama and dread in his writing while putting a unique stamp on a concept as familiar and timeless as teenagers transforming into unspeakable creatures of the night. Nowadays Freak remains a high point in Pike’s already distinguished output.
There was a time when the children’s section of bookstores was overflowing with horror and suspense. These books were easily identifiable by their flashy fonts and garish covers. This notable subgenre of YA fiction flourished in the 80s, peaked in the 90s, and then finally came to an end in the early 2000s. YA horror of this genre is indeed a thing of the past, but the stories endure at buried in a book. This recurring chronicle reflects the nostalgia novels that still haunt readers decades later.