The Freak Observer

  • Interest Level: Grade 9 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 7

The Freak Observer is rich in family drama, theoretical physics, and an unusual, tough young woman—Loa Lindgren. For eight years, Loa Sollilja’s world ran like one of those mechanical models of the solar system, with her baby sister, Asta, as the sun. Asta suffered from a genetic disorder that left her a permanent infant, and caring for her was Loa’s life. Everything spun neatly and regularly as the whole family orbited around Asta. But now Asta’s dead, and 16-year-old Loa’s clockwork galaxy has collapsed. As Loa spins off on her own, her mind ambushes her with vivid nightmares and sadistic flashbacks―a textbook case of PTSD. But there are no textbook fixes for Loa’s short-circuiting brain. She must find her own way to pry her world from the clutches of death. The Freak Observer is a startling debut about death, life, astrophysics, and finding beauty in chaos.

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Interest Level Grade 9 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 7
Genre Young Adult
Copyright 2010
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Lab ®
Language English
Number of Pages 208
Publication Date 2014-08-01
Reading Counts! Level 5.4
Text Type Fiction
BISACS YAF058060, YAF011000, YAF058140
Dewey [Fic]
Dimensions 5.25 x 7.5
Lexile 720
ATOS Reading Level 5.0
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 138163
Accelerated Reader® Points 7.0
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Awards, and Reviewed

Author: Blythe Woolston

Blythe Woolston is a reader. Right now, she makes her living indexing scholarly books. She has also worked as a writing teacher, library clerk, and production coordinator for a computer book publisher. Writing books is a new way for her to love reading.


  • William C. Morris YA Debut Award, Winner, 2011
  • PEN Center USA Literary Award Finalist, Commended, 2011
  • ABC New Voices Pick, Winner, 2010
  • ILA Children's and Young Adult's Book Award Honorable Mention, Commended, 2010


The Horn Book Guide

“Woolston draws a realistic picture of a family in trouble while focusing firmly on her deeply cerebral protagonist. Readers will be won by the vivid characterization of Loa and her strong narrative voice.” —The Horn Book Guide

The ALAN Review

“Sixteen-year-old Loa Lindgren witnesses a gruesome car accident that takes the life of her best friend, Esther. The event leaves Loa with a debilitating case of post-traumatic stress disorder. A mysterious figure known as the Bony Guy—death incarnate—terrifies her through vivid hallucinations and haunts her dreams at night. When Loa’s cherished baby sister Asta dies from medical complications, her already-broken family unravels even more. Loa meets Corey, a confident and peculiar schoolmate, who persuades her to join the debate team. But as their strange friendship blossoms, Corey abruptly leaves for Europe. Without friends or family to help, Loa begins to cope with her condition through, of all things, theoretical astrophysics. Loa’s mom enrolls at a university and the once-private and rural family find themselves connecting to each other and learning what it means to move on.” —The ALAN Review


“Loa’s voice is the story’s strength. She’s wry, observant, and honest in her narration. . . . This melancholic contemporary novel has many stellar moments that will appeal to issue-driven novel readers, but will need to be handsold through booktalking to reach a wider teen audience.” —VOYA

School Library Journal

“A unique, disturbing, creative story.” —School Library Journal

The Horn Book Magazine

“A strong narrative voice and a wave of tragedies define this character-driven first novel. . . . The bold cover photo of a human heart suggests the dark and sometimes graphic nature of the story. Those readers drawn inside will be won by the vivid characterization and fresh style.” —The Horn Book Magazine

Publishers Weekly

“Loa is strong, but overburdened and isolated; laced with bleak humor, her deadened, searching narration carries this dark and highly promising first novel.” —Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews

“A keenly observant narrator noticing life’s small details, Loa holds nothing back, which is both riveting and heartbreaking. An auspicious debut for both the author and Carolrhoda’s new Lab imprint.” —Kirkus Reviews


“Woolston’s talent for dialogue and her unique approach to scenes makes what sounds standard about this story feel fresh and vital. . . . A strong debut about learning to see yourself apart from the reflection you cast off.”