Jonny Zucker on a novel that packs a mighty punch…
I wish I’d written Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick. It’s about two underdogs – the physically disabled but fiercely intelligent Kevin and the huge, able-bodied but ‘slow’ Max. They originally meet in day-care but years later Kevin moves in next door to Max. Max is keen for them to hang out but Kevin initially rejects him. However, over time a firm friendship develops, as Max’s physical strength is complemented by Kevin’s whirlwind of an imagination. Their locality is peopled by characters like local bully ‘Blade’ and Max’s imprisoned father, ‘Killer Kane’. Where hostility and humiliation rule, the boys realise that only by acting together as ‘Freak the Mighty’ – with Kevin riding high on Max’s shoulders – can they survive and thrive. Their multiple adventures in search of the ‘unvanquished truth’ get them mixed up with the ‘Bionics Department’ of a local hospital, the police department and the Panheads – an ultra-tough motorcycle gang. When Killer Kane is released from prison and kidnaps his son, the true horror of Max’s past is finally revealed. With a heroic flourish Kevin saves Max’s life and Killer Kane is locked up once more – a sweet victory that is soured by Kevin’s tragic death. With acidic dialogue, classic plot twists and raw emotion, this is a book that packs a mighty punch.
Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick is published by Usborne (978 0 7460 8725 1) at £4.99 pbk.
Jonny Zucker’s latest book, Speed Machine, is published by Scholastic (978 1 4071 2104 8) at £5.99 pbk.