Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Spotlight: Freakling by Lana Krumwiede

Well met and welcome back, Beardies!

I must begin this post with an apology for our absence of late.  Joshua is still steadily chipping away at his rewrites; his story gets stronger every day, but as we all know, writing is a process.  For my part, I've been busily planning programs and slinging books for my faithful minions at the library, and I recently took a little working vacation.  Vacation wouldn't be vacation without souvenirs for friends, though, so please consider this Book Spotlight (and several more to come) your treats from my trip.  :)  Back at the beginning of November, I attended the Young Adult Library Services Association's YA Literature Symposium in beautiful St. Louis, Missouri.  It was a wonderful weekend filled with new friends, awesome food, much learning about my profession and my writing craft, and best of all, tons of free books and authors to sign them!

The stack of new, signed copies I acquired in St. Louis...just waiting for Spotlights.

I had more than my share of rock-star moments with for-real published authors that weekend, but one of the most memorable people I met was Lana KrumwiedeLana was in the lunch line with me on Saturday afternoon, and over lunch, we struck up a conversation.  She told me she had just published her first novel, and I shyly told her about my own literary endeavors.  As I sat marveling at my boldness in telling an honest-to-goodness author about my novel, Lana gave me a huge smile and words of encouragement.  She also gifted me a signed copy of her book and agreed to be the subject of my very first Author Spotlight.  So, it is with much excitement that I bring you this Book Spotlight on Lana’s debut novel, Freakling.  

The Premise:
In the city of Deliverance, everyone possesses a form of telekinetic magic called psi.  Psi is used for absolutely everything from eating to opening doors to turning on light switches; the use of one’s hands for any task that can be accomplished through psi is considered barbaric and uncouth. In addition to psi, twelve-year-old Taemon has the gift of “mind-wandering,” an extremely rare ability that allows him let his mind “wander” into any object to see how it works.  Because of the strict cultural norms of Deliverance, however, Taemon has always kept this ability a secret. But when Taemon’s older brother, Yens, begins to suspect his difference, he will stop at nothing to learn Taemon’s secret—even if it means destroying Taemon’s life or all of Deliverance in the process.  

Gems for Writers:

World-Building.  Lana Krumwiede builds her world steadily throughout the book, brick by brick.  Every aspect of the culture is examined, including religious beliefs, cultural norms, and folklore.  Krumwiede also utilizes some unorthodox world-building techniques.  For example, each chapter begins with an excerpt from Deliverance’s “Calendar Song,” which gives the reader a peek into the folklore and mythology of the city.  The main conflict offers insight into the dystopian elements of the society, especially the divide between those who have psi and those who do not.  Religious beliefs are explored through a plotline involving the coming of a false Messiah.  By the end of the book, the world is complete and real; the reader is sad to leave it and eager to return, especially given the masterful cliffhanger ending. 

Rules of Magic.  In a well-built fantasy world, the magical system will have clearly-defined rules and limitations.  In Deliverance, psi, or telekinetic magic, is used for every possible task.  It is not limitless, however, and can only be used for good—to help or show affection to another person.  Psi can never be used to perform tasks outside the wielder’s authority, so it is impossible, for example, to use it to commit a crime.  In addition to being an important part of world-building, Lana Krumwiede actually uses the rules and limitations of psi to drive the plot forward, as the true conflict begins when those in authority start looking for ways to defy the rules of psi.  I thought I had seen it all when it came to magical systems in speculative fiction—until this stroke of brilliance left me gasping with awe in the middle of a crowded airport terminal, that is. 

Characterization.  All of Krumwiede’s characters are fully developed and memorable, including the minor ones.  I am especially fond of Taemon and his brother, Yens.  Taemon is the kind of hero to whom every reader can relate—extremely powerful, yet unsure of himself, and eager to fit in in any situation.  His struggle to hide, first with the mind-wandering and later after losing his psi in a traumatic incident, is palpable.  Yens, on the other hand, is a perfect villain, but relatable at the same time.  He is naturally driven to the point of obsession, and that obsession goes terribly wrong.  I see a lot of myself in these characters, and I can’t wait to hear more from them. 


In this sparkling debut novel, Lana Krumwiede has built a world I’ll not soon forget and populated it with characters to whom I could easily relate.  That chance encounter in a lunch line at a conference gave me a new friend, a great read, and loads of practical writing advice.  I can’t wait to see where Lana Krumwiede takes this series next, and I’m excited to have a chance to interview her for my very first Author Spotlight—complete with giveaway, and coming soon!  

Happy Reading and Happy Scribing!

***Freakling (2012), by Lana Krumwiede, is published by and copyright Candlewick Press.  It is available in stores, online, and from your local public library.  


  1. Thanks, Elizabeth! It was a pleasure to meet you. The YALSA symposium was terrific!


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