REVIEW: Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks by Nathan Burgoine
Being the kid abducted by old Ms. Easton when he was four permanently set Cole’s status to freak. At seventeen, his exit plan is simple: make it through the last few weeks of high school with his grades up and his head down.
When he pushes through the front door of the school and finds himself eighty kilometers away holding the door of a museum he was just thinking about, Cole faces facts: he’s either more deluded than old Ms. Easton, or he just teleported.
Now every door is an accident waiting to happen?especially when Cole thinks about Malik, who, it turns out, has a glass door on his shower. When he starts seeing the same creepy people over his shoulder, no matter how far he’s gone, crushes become the least of his worries. They want him to stop, and they’ll go to any length to make it happen.
Cole is running out of luck, excuses, and places to hide.
Time for a new exit plan.
Dear Nathan Burgoine,
I thought this book was adorable. Cole is a senior in high school, he has supportive friends, other queer kids in the Rainbow club; he has supportive parents. Cole also has his hands full with many issues that seniors in high school would be occupied with. He is doing his best to get into college where he already knows what field he wants to major in, moreover Cole thinks he knows exactly what career he wants to pursue.
He is also crushing on his classmate Malik King and it seems that at the very least Malik would like to be his friend and maybe more? I really liked how *awkward* the gentle build up of the romance was. It was just so very believable to me – awkward to hear when your parents are lecturing you about “things”, awkward figuring out what you want to say to your crush/love interest and whether you want to do something more with them. It was also very sweet in the best meaning of the word. I thought Cole’s voice was wonderful.
““He’s cute,” she said. “Mom.” “I’m just saying.” “Please don’t,” I begged. “It’s weird.” “It’s not weird. And he seems to have a good head on his shoulders.” “He’s a friend.””
““How…?” he asked. “I think you just need to be touching me.” His eyebrow rose. He even smiled, just a little bit. I felt my face burning. “Touching you.” Was he teasing me? It felt like he was teasing me. “That’s how it worked last time,” I said. My voice sort of wobbled. Malik nodded. The awkwardness rose a few hundred levels. It really didn’t help that he was in his boxers. “Okay,” I said. “Ready for a ride?” The moment the words were out, I wanted to take them back, but Malik grinned, shrugging. “I just grab on to you?” he said.”
I am not sure if this needs to be said, but the book being YA, it is not erotic in the slightest – in case you may be looking for the sex scenes, please don’t. I mean, the boys are dancing around each other every time they are on page, when other stuff does not keep Cole and occasionally Malik too very busy, but it is only made clear that they are going to try and be together at the end of the book, so sex scenes would not have made sense anyway.
Besides school and preparation for college Cole is understandably preoccupied for the most of the book with the fact that he discovered that he can teleport to a lot of different places and after he gets over the fact that yes, he can *teleport*, he tries to make sense of it, starts practicing and see where all of this will take him. I am hesitant to discuss this in details because this is a very important storyline. However, I am going to say this, at first I kept waiting that some other SFF element will be introduced in the story.
Don’t get me wrong, I most definitely had no expectations about this story before I started it. I mean I expected it to be decently written because of the name of the author, but I had no other preconceived expectations. It is just as much as I love SFF books, I rarely find the world building where the author adds only one SFF element to *our* world believable. Sometimes I do, but it does not happen often. I end up asking how does that make sense and where did the fantastical element came from, how it would mesh with our world. I am happy to say that somehow the author just made me accept it and go along with the world building .
There was a characterization/plot element that did not quite work for me. As you can see from the quote, Cole’s parents seem to want him to check out other options for his career just because he sometimes concentrates on something so deeply (Cole likes to plan things well in advance let’s just say it) and doesn’t explore other options.
“What? I blinked. This again? Where was this coming from? “But I like it.” And I was good at it. And it was important. And it had been my plan for… like… ever. She came back up the stairs and leaned against the wall. “I know that. Your father does, too. I just want to be clear about it, though. If you wanted to study something else, you know we’d be okay with that, right?” She met my gaze.
“Both of us would be. You can take time to decide things, like your friend Malik.” “I know,” I said. Except I didn’t. I hated the thought. Like, why were they both so down on me doing what Dad does? I didn’t get it. “Do you think I’m doing the wrong thing?” I asked. “Linguistics, I mean?” She shook her head. “Not even a little. I just don’t want you to focus too much on one thing. You’re good at that.””
Basically while in theory I understood Cole’s parents concerns, I could not apply those concerns to Cole if it makes sense. I saw how much Cole wanted to do what he chose to do and did not see clues in the narrative that he does it for any other reason than because he likes this profession and wants to be good at it and help people. I mean he also wants to do what his dad does, but once again I saw no indication that there was something wrong with following in the steps of his dad who seemed to be pretty great person.
Anyway, when at the end after all kinds of things took place which I cannot talk about because spoilers Cole decides to take a gap year to decide what he wants to do, I was more than a little taken aback. I would have understood it if romance was the only thing he wanted to explore, but he specifically says that he was going to explore some other potential majors and I was thinking – huh why? Felt more like unintended pressure from his parents than his own decision.
Everything else worked very well for me.